GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, received the Secretary of Defense Field-Level award at the 2012 Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards Banquet on Nov. 15, at DeVos Place Convention Center, Grand Rapids, Mich. This made the second time the squadron has claimed ownership of the award since 2009.
Annually, the defense secretary recognizes the outstanding achievements of field-level units in maintenance by awarding six Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards, two from each competition category; small, medium and large. Of the six units chosen, one is singled out as the “best of the best” and will be presented with the coveted Phoenix Award, the highest award for field-level maintenance.
Last year, Defense Department’s maintenance program spent an estimated $79 billion on labor, material and other resources essential to military readiness, accounting for 12 percent of the department’s resource allocations. A unit’s dedication, expertise and craftsmanship, as well as the actions taken to retain weapon systems and equipment readiness, were evaluated, inspected and judged during the selection process for the top two units of each category.
A brief summary of the squadron’s accomplishments was sent to the under secretary of defense, justifying their selection for the award. The same summary was announced during the squadron’s acceptance of the award.
“It’s a distinguished honor to receive this award because it validates our hard work,” said Sgt. 1st Class Steve Helton, former senior maintenance supervisor for 1st Squadron. Helton is currently assigned to 215th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, but was invited to the banquet to support his fellow comrades as they accept the award.
Chosen as the top large category winner from a competitive worldwide group of the department’s field-level maintenance units, the squadron once again carried the torch as the sole remaining Army unit in the competition, much like the last time the squadron won the award in 2009.
“This prestigious award and the challenging circumstances surrounding it speaks to the extraordinary effort of our operators and maintainers amid deployment, re-deployment and transformation from an Armored Cavalry Squadron to a Stryker Squadron,” said Lt. Col. Steven Cho, squadron commander.
“Achieving these results took hard work, creativity, a thorough understanding of maintenance systems and a devout commitment to the development of more efficient systems that provide the same level of maintenance while using less of the Army’s money,” Cho said.
The banquet began with an introduction from the host, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Maintenance John Johns, during which he announced the six maintenance award winners.
When called upon, the squadron representatives captivated the audience when they mounted their chairs and loudly cried out the regimental accolade.
“Prepare for the Regimental Accolade!”
“Prepare to sound off!”
“Blood and steel!”
After which, squadron Command Sgt. Maj. Seann O’Brien approached the podium to adorn Johns with a cavalry Stetson, presented him with a squadron coin and pinned a regimental crest to his lapel. Johns seemed pleasantly surprised and wore the Stetson for the remainder of the banquet.
“I wanted Johns, as well as everyone in the room, to feel the essence of what it means to be a U.S. Army Cavalryman,” O’Brien said. “I wanted our presence to be know amongst the other services in the audience.”
Although the squadron did not win the coveted Phoenix Award, this year made the second time the “Tiger Squadron” had won the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Award, the only Army unit to do so. The award was brought back to the Great Place where it will be on display in the squadron’s headquarters for one year.