FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 7, 2013) -- Soldiers, Family members and senior leaders in Aviation came together at the Landing during the Senior Leaders' Dinner to honor the recipients of the annual Army Aviation Association of America Awards presentation Jan 29.

Among those presenting the awards were Lt. Gen. James O. Barclay III, deputy chief of staff, G-8, Headquarters, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C., and Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general.

"These are the [Soldiers] both inside the cockpit, outside the cockpit, in those air traffic control towers, in those shelters and in the medevacs," said Barclay. "They are from a lot of different areas of training from Aviation medicine, medevac, air and sea rescue and air traffic control that make us what we are as a great Branch."

The awards were presented in two categories: the Air Traffic Control Awards and the AAAA National Awards, with each including subcategories in which the awards were presented to different Soldiers and units.

"The U.S. Army ATC activity committee annually selects the ATC awardees in five separate categories," said Col. Kevin J. Christensen, 110th Aviation Brigade commander and master of ceremonies. "This dinner, in cooperation with the Army Aviation Association of America, marks another anniversary of an award tradition that began in 1972."

The ATC Awards and the AAAA National Awards were both presented in five separate categories, he said.

ATC Unit of the Year

The 2012 ATC Unit of the Year Award was presented to 3-58th Airfield Operations Battalion.

"3-58th AOB is the premier operations battalion in the Army and made significant impacts in the safety and efficiency in air operations in Afghanistan's regional command South and West," said Christensen. "They safely executed over 30,000 movements of multination manned and unmanned, fixed-and rotor-wing aircraft, but the unit's most critical impact was the infrastructure and procedural development necessary to prepare the coalition for the impending transition of these facilities to Afghan control."

ATC Facility of the Year

This award was presented to Shank Tower, F Company, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment. "Forward Operating Base Shank Tower ran by F Co, 3-82nd provided exceptional meritorious service as a forward-deployed air traffic control facility in support of Operation Enduring Freedom," said Christensen. "Shank Tower provided air traffic control services to U.S. and multinational, rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft, commercial air carriers and unmanned aircraft systems in one of the most complex and kinetic airfields in the theater."

They also conducted 24-hour combat operations in a fix-based tower that was constructed from no existing infrastructure to control an airfield consisting of four runways, two helicopter landing zones, an aerial gunnery range and air traffic training area, he added.

ATC Maintenance Technician of the Year

This award was co-presented to Staff Sgt. James Pierce, F Co., 3rd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt., TF Corsair, and Sgt. Thomas Spearman, F Co., 5th Bn., 158th Avn. Regt., TF Storm.

"Pierce provided exceptionally meritorious achievements as a senior ATC maintenance technician and examiner for his unit in Operation Enduring Freedom," said Christensen. "His confidence, drive and unmatched knowledge of tactical ATC systems is unparalleled and proved paramount in maintaining 24-hour continuous operations at FOB Shank.

"Spearman's outstanding personal performance, initiatives and innovative solutions to maintenance challenges and dedication to mission accomplishment have contributed immeasurably to the quality and efficiency of air traffic services within the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade footprint in Germany, Afghanistan and the Army Aviation community at large," he continued.

Prior to deployment, Spearman accepted the role of company maintenance supervisor when the acting supervisor was unexpectedly taken out of the fight.

ATC Manager of the Year Award

The 2012 ATC Manager of the Year Award was presented to CW2 Amanda Edwards, F Co., 3rd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt. General Support Aviation Battalion, 82nd CAB, TF Corsair.

"Edwards led a small team within the company in managing the only Army-run C-17-capable airfield in Afghanistan in a tough, combat environment," said Christensen. "Her additional drive and tireless work ethic ensured and expanded via safety efficiency and operating capabilities of the airfield including four runways, two helicopter landing surfaces, an aerial gunnery range, and a rotary-wing training area and a host of 100-tenant units."

Air Traffic Controller of the Year

This award was presented to Staff Sgt. Plemon Aker, F Co., 3rd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt. General Support Aviation Battalion, 82nd CAB, TF Corsair.

"Aker's incredible meritorious performance as the Shank ground control approach facility chief and examiner demonstrated his tireless pursuit of excellence and exceptional knowledge at FOB Shank," said Christensen. "He's a passionate professional, subject-matter expert and leader who serves as a great example for all Soldiers and controllers to emulate."

Following the presentation of the ATC Awards, Christensen announced the winners of the AAAA National Awards.

Trainer of the Year

The AAAA Trainer of the Year Award was presented to CW4 Andy Fisher, B Co., 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

"Fisher distinguished himself over the course of more than 24 years of service in Army Aviation as an aero-scout observer, OH-58D standardization pilot and command chief warrant officer for the Army's only Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion," explained Christensen. "He continues to deploy with the regiment to keep his instruction relevant and up to date."

Aviation Medicine Award

This award was co-presented to Lt. Col. Mark S. Crago, HHC, 82nd CAB, and Capt. John M. Kurtz, HHC, 3rd Bn., 24th Avn. Regt., TF Hammerhead.

"Crago served the troopers of the 82nd CAB as well as coalition forces operating in Afghanistan with absolute selfless and unwavering commitment, ensuring the readiness of deploying CAB Soldiers and sustaining their ability to provide continuous Aviation presence, and personally rendering life-saving medical treatment to wounded personnel," said Christensen. "He repeatedly placed his own life at risk to help Soldiers in need.

"Kurtz is a highly-regarded, combat-proven physician assistant who contributed greatly to TF Hammerhead's overall success in providing care during aero-medical evacuation missions during Regional Command South and Southwest in Afghanistan," he said. "While deployed, he led the deployment, training and implementation of the historic Army blood product administration program, co-authored the U.S. Forces Afghanistan blood product implementation standard operating procedures and developed a multiphase program of instruction."

DUSTOFF Flight Medic of the Year

The 2012 DUSTOFF Medic of the Year Award was presented to Staff Sgt. Jose Pantoja, C Co., 3rd Bn., 25th Avn. Regt.

"Pantoja, a highly-decorated, combat-tested flight medic is the perfect example of the courage, commitment, leadership and skills of an Army flight medic," said Christensen. "During two particular medevac missions, a civilian shooting and a mass casualty incident, his medical expertise and leadership helped save the lives of multiple critically wounded patients."

Air and Sea Rescue Award

The 2012 Air and Sea Rescue Award was presented to the crewmembers of DUSTOOF 72, C Co., 3rd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt., TF Talon, which includes: CW3 Monica Narhi, Capt. Jerrell Whaley, Sgt. 1st Class Dean Bostick, Staff Sgt. Jesse Allen and Capt. Bryan Kozak.

"The crew members of DUSTOFF 72 distinguished themselves by exceptionally valorous conduct as an air ambulance air crew in support of U.S. and Afghan Soldiers besieged by a relentless and numerically superior enemy force during Operation Enduring Freedom," said Christensen. "The courage, teamwork, composure and skilled utilization of the H60 Mike hoist of DUSTOFF 72 to gain access to otherwise inaccessible terrain under intense and sustained direct fire from enemy forces were instrumental in saving the lives of four American Soldiers and one Afghan Army National Soldier, and returned the remains of two U.S. Army fallen heroes to friendly control.

ROTC Cadet of the Year

The 2012 ROTC Cadet of the Year was presented to 2nd Lt. Darren Walker, graduate of University of Colorado, who received a bachelor's degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminology, according to Christensen. He is currently in the Black Hawk course with follow-on orders to Fort Carson.

"It always amazes me that we continue to have great [Soldiers] and great organizations that step up to the plate and answer the call," said Barclay. "It's a call that's not from outside, but from within that they step up and do what's right, and make organizations better, make themselves better and make the Army better."