FORT CAMPBELL, KY (SSG Thaddius S. Dawkins II) – The U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command’s (USASOAC) Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion (SOATB) was presented the 2013 Lt. Gen. Ellis D. Parker Award for excellence as an Army Aviation Table of Distribution and Allowances (TDA) Battalion during a ceremony Jan. 31, 2014.
“To win this is truly an honor that symbolizes the dedication and commitment our Soldiers and Civilians demonstrate on a daily basis to provide world-class-training to the aviators and crew members supporting the world’s finest Special Operations Forces (SOF),” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey J. Bragg, SOATB Commander. “We strive to embody the same sense of devotion Lt. Gen. Parker demonstrated during his 34 years of aviation service.”
The Parker award was established at Parker’s retirement, Jan. 29, 1993, by then Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, to honor the top aviation battalion in the Army. It is a Department of the Army (DA) level award that recognizes excellence at the battalion level in an Army Aviation unit.
In his award recommendation letter, Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general, U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), stated why he felt SOATB was deserving of the award.
“The SOATB has been revolutionary in the transformation of Army Special Operations Aviation training and continues to train our absolute best Special Operations aviators with established state-of-the-art techniques, tactics and procedures in support of our worldwide mission,” he wrote. “Although the training the SOATB provides is unique to Special Operations Aviation, it also significantly contributes to all of Army Aviation.”
Bragg further explained his unit’s unique mission and the multitude of tasks they accomplish on a daily basis.
“We exist as a single stop unit, predominantly charged to develop and train basic qualified rotary wing pilots, aviation maintainers, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operators, crew chiefs, medics and staff support personnel to transition immediately into a numbered unit and perform his or her craft,” he said. “SOATB thrives on the experience of our civilian mission instructors and active duty trainers to provide realistic and exacting standards of training that our ground force customers have come to expect over the last 30 years.”
According to Bragg, SOATB has become the premier training battalion in the Army Aviation Enterprise and firsthand deployment experiences from SOATB instructors have greatly enhanced the battalions training capabilities.
“We have evolved substantially over the past decade as continued conflict has sharpened our formation with experienced and seasoned instructors as well as many lessons learned from the battlefield,” he said. “SOATB continues to refine our Programs of Instruction (POIs) monthly by reaping the benefits of being co-located with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), who continues to fight nightly in sustained conflict for the past 12 years.”
With this year’s award in hand, Bragg is already looking forward to next year’s competition.
“SOATB will absolutely compete again next year,” he said. “I believe our consistent high performance demonstrated by the execution of more than 30 separate POIs by a means of 34 Programs of Record (POR) airframes consisting of three separate Mission Design Series (MDS) and the training and throughput of more than 700 students annually proves there is no other unit that executes the multitude of operations to our exacting standards.”
While Bragg was the one graciously receiving the award, he knows if it weren’t for the other members of his unit, none of it would have been possible.
“Every one of our Soldiers, DA Civilians and Contractors are personally invested in the training and day-to-day operations of this battalion as a combined high-performing team,” he said. “Without the dedication and pride these individuals provide, this unit wouldn’t be recognized as the premier training battalion in the Army Aviation Enterprise.”
“Embrace this honor; allow it to solidify why you do what you do daily and to the standard you’ve committed to uphold,” Bragg continued. “There are many areas where leaders assume risk, sometimes even on the battlefield. However, training our future SOF aviation personnel is an area we refuse to assume any risk, only the standard is accepted. For the men and women of the SOATB, you’ve earned this award with great distinction.”