"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
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
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
"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
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),"
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
"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."