By Spc. Jennifer Andersson (101st Airborne)June 18, 2012
"Man, equip, train - those are the things we did," said Maj. Nate Surrey, the aviation intermediate maintenance officer for 563rd Aviation Support Battalion during the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade's 2011-2012 deployment to southern Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and currently the executive officer of the brigade. "We manned (our move) properly, we equipped them with everything they needed for all the phases (and) made sure everyone had the right training -- bottom line."
This mentality earned the 159th CAB the Army's coveted Best of the Best Award in Washington, D.C., June 5.
"We won the active large unit category," said Maj. Jason Kahne, the executive officer for 563rd ASB during the deployment. "This was the first year they've done it, but basically, they selected the best out of the 13 categories. So not only did we win our category, we won the best in the Army."
The brigade's logisticians worked hard during deployment, and it paid off. They have since earned numerous awards for their efforts, including the Deployment Excellence Award from Forces Command, the Deployment Excellence Award and the Best of the Best Award, both from the Department of the Army.
This transportation award is based on an assessment of the difficulty and the resulting execution of the movement into theater, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Patrick Dougherty, the mobility officer for the 159th CAB.
"It was a very difficult move," Dougherty said. "(Afghanistan is) a landlocked country, which makes it difficult. It was a combination of getting combat power and people on the battlefield at the right time. That was one of the most difficult things -- to get our combat power on the battlefield and get 101 CAB's off the battlefield without losing any combat power."
Learning from other units helped 159th CAB's transition into Afghanistan.
At the time 159th CAB was transporting goods into theater, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division was transporting equipment out of theater. The two units crossed paths in Rota, Spain.
Dougherty said being able to watch how 4th BCT managed their movement of goods only enhanced the efficiency of the execution of 159th CAB's cargo and aircraft.
"I think, point blank, teamwork and efficiency is what won us this award, and that is across all facets of deployment and redeployment," Surrey said.
Surrey said winning the award involved more than just doing the work; it also involved communication.
And communicating their story well is what put the 159th ahead of the other contenders.
"We presented all of our statistics and (after-action review) comments, how everything actually came together on both sides," Surrey said. "The way we presented that all to the Department of the Army was also a big part. … It's not just how you execute, it's how you sell what you executed."
Kahne said the write-up for the award submission covered the deployment process, including the planning and preparation at Fort Campbell, Ky., the deployment of cargo equipment, the deployment of aircraft and sensitive items containers and, finally, the deployment of personnel into Afghanistan.
"It covered the planning process and the actual execution from the arrival of the first piece of the equipment to the arrival of the last Soldier," he said.
The key to their successful execution of their mission was planning, rehearsals and training.
Kahne said the key to success in a deployment is starting the planning process as soon as possible, communicating and setting up a good schedule for reconnaissance to ease movement of goods.
"You do the planning, you conduct the training that is required of all the individual skill sets, you conduct rehearsals, so by the time the execution comes, you have all the right people in the right places with the plan ready to execute, and therefore (things go smoothly)," Surrey said.
Of course, a plan can only go so far. It's the Soldier who carries out the plan, and every Soldier involved with the process was necessary.
"It really required everyone who had a hand in the unit deployment process," Surrey said.
This award did not come from one isolated person, group or action -- it was a dynamic effort involving hundreds of Soldiers working with installations and joint partners, while other Soldiers were doing extensive preparation and training to conduct different phases of deployment and redeployment.
"No one person gets the credit here," Surrey pointed out. "If anything, it's the command climate that gets the credit. It starts with Colonel (Todd) Royar, and really, the (commanding general) of the 101st. Everybody works as a team on this post."
"The (command team) put a lot of emphasis on movement into this region," he said. "They were focused on giving us everything we needed, all that a command could. I think that's the key to anything -- having the command behind you and supporting you."