FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 7, 2013) -- Soldiers and post officials gathered at Cairns Army Airfield Feb. 27 to honor the Soldiers and civilians of 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment on receiving an Ellis D. Parker Award.

The unit received the award for Top Aviation Battalion Table of Distribution and Allowances for fiscal year 2012, according to Lt. Col. Demetrios Nicholson, 1-223rd Avn. Regt. battalion commander.

"I'm really proud of my unit because, really, it's the Soldiers and the civilians within the unit that do all the hard work," said Nicholson. "They're the professionals and they're the ones that took all the hard work that we've done and submitted it for the award.

"I know there aren't a lot of TDA units out there, but there are enough to make it competitive, especially here at Fort Rucker in our brigade," he said. "To win it just out of the brigades was honor enough because all these units are great units."

The Ellis D. Parker Award is presented across Army Aviation in four categories: Best Combat Battalion, Best Combat Support Battalion, Best Combat Service Support Battalion and Best Table of Distribution and Allowances Battalion. The winners of each of those categories go on to compete for the title of Top Aviation Battalion of the Year, according to a Department of the Army memorandum.

Winners are chosen based on packets that are submitted starting at the brigade level, according to Nicholson.

"Every battalion in the brigade can do this and there are rules that regulate what your packet must contain," he said. "You have to write about [your battalion's] training, maintenance, operations and other things."

After the packet is submitted to the brigade, the brigade commander hosts a committee to pick the best from the different battalions. From there, the packet is submitted to the U.S Army Training and Doctrine Command-level and U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence-level where it competes against other winners from different brigades until a top winner is chosen, according to Nicholson.

"The 1-223rd is probably one of the most diverse battalions here when it comes to Aviation," said Nicholson. "Out here at [Cairns Army Airfield], we're the airfield managers, and Cairns is probably the busiest airport in the Army because we have flight school flying primary instruments."

The unit is home to many companies that are spread across many different airfields, stage fields and heliports to provide training, maintenance and operations for Army Aviation.

Some of those companies include: Headquarters, Headquarters Company, which oversees primary training in the TH-67 at Cairns; FLATIRON, which does medevac operations, crash rescue and Defense Support to Civilian Authorities; two companies at Knox Army Heliport, which run Chinook undergraduate and graduate training; and C Company at Knox, which is starting up the MI-17 program, a Russian helicopter that students will soon begin training on.

When it comes to excellence in training, the 1-223rd is no stranger to it, and the unit is also no stranger to winning awards.

"In total, this battalion has won the Parker award six times, but this time we won it two years in a row," said Nicholson. "In addition to the Parker Awards, the unit has also received numerous safety awards, including the Order of Daedalians.

"In the end, it just makes me proud because it's the Soldiers that put in the hard work to earn [all of this recognition]," he said. "I was just lucky enough to be in command when they did it."