By Debbie Stevenson

Killeen Daily Herald

ORLANDO, Fla. The Army Aviation Association on Tuesday recognized the 1st Cavalry Divisions aviation brigade for its work last year in Iraq.

Col. James McConville and his senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Sanders, accepted the associations unit of the year for the active Army during the associations 49th annual convention, which ends today here at Disney World.

We learned in Iraq that when we fly, our soldiers dont die, said McConville, citing the units motto as he accepted the award. We couldnt fly enough.

While in Iraq, the brigades 2,100-plus troops flew more than 70,000 hours in less than 12 months, more than six times their average at Fort Hood.

This figure ... represents the most hours overall, per month, and by airframe type per month, of any unit that served in (Iraq), the citation noted. Aviators averaged over 600 combat flight hours each, with several logging over 1,000 hours.

The feat required 70 phase maintenance inspections, over 650 progressive phase maintenance inspections, requisition and management of nearly 11,000 parts, over 560,000 maintenance man-hours, the distribution of over 3 million gallons of JP-8 fuel, and regular re-supply convoys that drove over 385,000 miles, the citation stated.

Several members of the aviation unit attended the presentation.

It was well deserved for all of the soldiers for the unit, said Chief Warrant Officer-4 Mie Champion, the standards officer for the brigades 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment.

It was a team effort, he added, one that included the tactical operations center personnel, refuelers, aviators and ground crews. It was a lot of work from all the soldiers.

Chief Warrant Officer-5 Rolf Giesler, Champions counterpart at the brigade level, said the unit constantly adapted to the enemy, even bringing back tactics from 20 years ago when he first joined the service.

We used some of those tactics and then modified them, Giesler said.

The strategy worked, said Chief Warrant Officer-4 Dan McClinton, an Apache pilot.

The feedback came from the soldiers on the ground who told McClinton that the mere presence of the Armys most lethal helicopter gunship was enough to stop the attacks.

The aviation unit returned in March to Fort Hood after spending a year in the Baghdad area.

McClinton said the slower pace took a little getting used to.

At first, when we came out of Iraq, it was hard for me to deal with going from flying six to seven hours ... to go to doing nothing, he said. At first you felt like you didnt have anything to do.

The associations active Army unit honor was established in 1959, three years after the group was formed.

Normally, it is presented to units at the battalion level, McConville said in an earlier interview.

The only reason I was willing to accept at the brigade level was because I had so many great battalions that each and every one of them could have won it themselves, he said.

Also honored Tuesday were the 6th Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment from Los Alamitos, Calif., which also has units at Fort Hood, and the Army Reserves Task Force Pirate, 1st Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment from Utah.

The 6th Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment flew fixed-wing aircraft from Balad, Iraq, providing transportation for thousands of passengers and moved millions of pounds of cargo.

Contact Debbie Stevenson at

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