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AAAA issues top honors to Aviation units, people

Sgt. Brandon J. Travers, A Co., 3rd CAB, TF Viper, and recipient of the 2013 Army Aviation Trainer of the Year Award, shakes hands with Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, during the AAAA Award Ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Feb. 5. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Sgt. Brandon J. Travers, A Co., 3rd CAB, TF Viper, and recipient of the 2013 Army Aviation Trainer of the Year Award, shakes hands with Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, during the AAAA Award Ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Feb. 5. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: February 13, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 13, 2014) -- Hundreds came together at the U.S Army Aviation Museum during the Senior Leaders’ Dinner to honor Army Aviation Soldiers receiving recognition during the 2013 Army Aviation Association of America National Function Awards ceremony Feb.  5.

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, were among those to present the awards.

“Tonight, we recognize these great Americans,” said Barclay. “It’s truly an honor for me to come out here and speak to all of you, but more importantly it’s an honor for me to come back to the Aviation center to present awards to these great Americans, and recognize their sacrifices and their service for what they’ve done over the past year.”

The awards have been given out since 1972 and the U.S. Army Air Traffic Control Activity annually selects air traffic control awardees in five separate categories from two main categories: the Air Traffic Control Awards and the AAAA Awards, according to Col. Jayson A. Altieri, 110th Aviation Brigade commander and master of ceremonies.

ATC Unit of the Year

The 2013 ATC Unit of the Year Award was presented to F Company, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.

“(This unit) provided exceptionally meritorious service as a forward deployed tactical air traffic services company in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” said Altieri. “Foxtrot Company has provided unrivaled air traffic services support to Regional Command-East, Afghanistan through ground breaking ATC methods and accomplished unprecedented responsibilities.

“Their proficiency while controlling a high volume of coalition, join and multinational rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft are unrivaled,” he continued. “Moreover, they have been commended for their outstanding operations by tenant military and civilian units, U.S. Air Force personnel and Soldiers within the units that depend on Aviation assets for outstanding mission accomplishment.”

ATC Facility of the Year

This award was presented to Shank Tower, F Co., 6th Bn., 101st CAB, Task Force Corsair Eagle Assault, in Afghanistan.

“Shank Tower provided VFR air traffic control services to coalition, multinational military and civilian aircraft, and unmanned aircraft systems units at one of the most complex airfields in support of Regional Command-East,” said Altieri. “The intricacy of FOB Shank’s airfield continually increased due to the increase in volume of traffic, multiple landing surfaces, congested airspace, enemy threat and a complex airfield layout.

“Shank Tower has supported myriad military and civilian fixed- and rotary-wing operations and unmanned aircraft systems, which directly and positively impacted combat operations in Afghanistan,” he added. “Operations that resulted in life-saving situations for countless aircrew members and Soldiers within RC-East.”

ATC Maintenance Technician of the Year

The 2013 ATC Maintenance Technician of the Year Award was presented to Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Squires, F Co., 3rd Bn., 10th CAB, TF Knighthawk.

“Squires represents the core ideals of Army Aviation and serves as a model of excellence within the ATS community,” said the master of ceremonies. “(He) served as the unit’s maintenance manager, headquarters platoon sergeant, company training noncommissioned officer, and was hand selected by the unit commander to help offset the airfield management responsibilities on the only Army-controlled airfield in Afghanistan.

“His efforts enabled the assigned controllers to execute their duties in safely controlling over 160,000 airfield movements by U.S. coalition, civilian and Afghan air force units,” he continued.

ATC Manager of the Year

This award was presented to CW2 Victor B. Villaluz, F Co., 6th Bn., 101st CAB, TF Eagle Assault.

“(Villaluz’s) outstanding duty performance as the deployed FOB Shank airfield management officer in charge and tower platoon leader was pivotal to the support of (his unit) and the extensive list of tenant users and Soldiers that were impacted by his contributions to the only U.S. Army operated C-17 capable airfield in RC-East,” said Altieri. “(He) far surpassed his operational duty description as an air traffic and air space management warrant officer, and dedicated his efforts during Operation Enduring Freedom to the safety, efficiency and security of FOB Shank.

“He continuously demonstrated sound judgment, a tireless work ethic, unrivaled initiative and the innate ability to balance the rigors of managing a complex airfield in an austere combat environment while facilitating day-to-day operations of an intricate ATC tower,” he added.

Air Traffic Controller of the Year

The 2013 Air Traffic Controller of the Year Award was presented to Staff Sgt. Monica Y. Willard, A-511 tower facility chief, 4th Bn., 58th Aviation Regiment, Camp Humphreys, Korea.

“Willard demonstrated outstanding performance in every aspect of air traffic control operations, Soldiering and leadership,” said Altieri. “She served as the A-511 tower chief immediately upon arrival in country and made a significant impact.

“Willard’s performance as the tower chief was nothing short of amazing as she rapidly overhauled the training program and record keeping, ensuring smooth operations for every member of the facility,” he continued.

Army Aviation Trainer of the Year

Presented to the trainer who has made an outstanding individual contribution to Army Aviation, the 2013 Trainer of the Year Award was presented to Sgt. Brandon J. Travers, A Co., 3rd CAB, TF Viper.

“Travers took a company barely capable of completing their assigned mission due to lack of qualified crew chiefs to man the UH-60L Black Hawk aircraft assigned to (his unit), and created a team of trained and ready warriors ready to accomplish any mission,” said Altieri. “His duties as the primary trainer within the company were not limited to the progression of crew chiefs, but also for the newly assigned door gunners, none of whom had prior Aviation crew-duty experience.

“During his nine-month deployment to Forward Operating Base Wolverine in Regional Command-South, Afghanistan, he was able to progress Soldiers and complete annual proficiency and readiness tests to enhance the warfighting capability of the assault helicopter company in the Zabul Province of Afghanistan,” he said.

Army Aviation Medicine Award

This award was presented to Capt. Nicholas P. Pelletier, 1st Bn., 10th CAB, TF Tigershark.

“Pelletier is a highly regarded, combat-proven physician assistant who contributed immensely to Task Force Tigershark’s overall success in providing emergency medical care, aeromedical evacuation and mass casualty support to coalition forces operating throughout Regional Command-East in Afghanistan,” said the master of ceremonies. “While deployed, Pelletier led a team of professionals that provided timely and life-saving medical treatment to coalition forces,” he continued. “He flew more than 30 missions supporting Regional Command-East, International Security Assistance Force, special operations and Afghanistan National Security Forces, and treated more than 2,000 patients and performed more than 100 invasive medical procedures without any complications while assisting in the operating room during nine major surgeries.”

Army Aviation DUSTOFF Flight Medic of the Year

The 2013 DUSTOFF Medic of the Year Award was presented to Sgt. Jeremy M. Wicklin, C Co., 2nd Bn., 3rd CAB.

“As a highly experienced and combat-tested flight medic, Sergeant Wicklin contributed greatly to the overall success of his unit’s medevac mission in Kandahar, Afghanistan,” said Altieri. “While deployed, he successfully completed more than 60 medevac missions, flew 100 hours and provided enroute treatment to more than 70 patients, including International Security Assistance Force Soldiers and Afghan Nationals.

“During three particular medevac missions in the dangerous Panjwai Valley, which involved improvised explosive devices and gunshot wounds, his medical expertise and leadership helped save the lives of multiple critically-wounded patients,” he added. “He also service as the NCOIC and instructor for the highly successful Afghan Flight Medic Partnership Training Program with the Kandahar Air Wing.”

Army Aviation Air and Sea Rescue Award

The 2013 Army Aviation Air/Sea Rescue Award was presented to the crew of DUSTOFF 18: CW4 Daniel Jacques, pilot in command; 1st Lt. Braden Hunter, pilot; Sgt. Ashley Corey, crew chief; and Sgt. Gregory Tufts, flight medic, all of C Co., 3rd Bn., 238th Avn. Regt., 10th CAB.

“The crewmembers of DUSTOFF 18 distinguished themselves through professional and meritorious conduct on Aug. 22, 2013, while in support of U.S. and Afghan Soldiers securing critical supply routes through the Khost-Gardez Pass in the vicinity of Combat Outpost Wilderness during Operation Enduring Freedom,” said Altieri. “Operating under night-vision goggles, low illumination and deteriorating weather conditions, their dedication, teamwork, composure and skilled utilization of the HH-60A hoist to gain access to otherwise inaccessible terrain at 8,900 feet of elevation were instrumental in evacuating a critically wounded casualty, as well as the overall success of the mission.”

Aviation Mission Survivability Officer Award

This award was presented to CW3 Mathew P. Ruffner, B Co., 1st Bn., 104th Avn. Regt., 28th CAB, Fort Indiantown Gap, Penn., who was killed, along with his co-pilot, CW2 Jarrett Yoder, when their Apache crashed in eastern Afghanistan.

His parents, Chuck and Dianne Ruffner, and his fiancé, Jackie Buhrke, accepted the award on his behalf.

“Ruffner’s performance as an AMSO was exceptional,” said Altieri. “He initiated and organized monthly joint terminal attack controller training for unit Aviators, which acclimated them to the joint environment, and while deployed to Afghanistan, he served as the AMSO for B Co., 1-104th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, and was also a qualified instructor pilot and instrument examiner.

“Upon his arrival at Forward Operating Base Konduz, he assumed the role of primary air mission commander for the night quick reaction force mission and took responsibility as the primary mission planner for the company, establishing a mission planning network with the task force,” he continued. “He was the first to volunteer to deploy with A Company to FOB Fenty when the ARB was tasked to self-deploy an attack company from RC-North to RC-East.”

This article was originally published at

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