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Fri, Nov 12, 2004

Flight Of The Phoenix

Marines Garner Top Prize In Aircraft Maintenance Competition

Combat Service Support Battalion 10, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, recently was announced as the 2004 Phoenix Award winner during the 2004 DoD Maintenance Symposium and Exhibition in Houston.

Bradley Berkson, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness, announced the award, DoD's highest for field-level maintenance. Dave Pauling, assistant deputy undersecretary for maintenance policy, programs and resources, presented the battalion with the 20th annual award, Chuck Field, administrator of the award program said.

The Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards program requires the submission of a nomination package covering the performance of a unit for the preceding fiscal year. Each of the four services is allowed to submit two nominations in each of the small-, medium- and large-unit categories, for a combined total of 24 nominations.

For this year's awards, 23 nomination packages were received. Joint commands are also eligible to submit nominations. However, Field said, the joint-command category is a new addition and had no submissions this year.

From the total number of submissions, a selection board of six raters chooses six units, two in each category. The Phoenix Award winner is then chosen from those final six units. The remaining five are presented Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards in recognition of outstanding achievement in field-level military equipment and weapon system maintenance.

The Marine battalion, an entry in the medium category, beat out five other units to claim top honors, said Field, who is a senior policy analyst for the Office of the Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Maintenance Policy, Programs and Resources.

The awards-banquet brochure mentioned a few of the battalion's accomplishments, Field said. CSSB 10 is credited with transitioning from maintenance support of tenant units at Twentynine Palms (CA), to direct combat service support to all 1st Marine Division units in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force combat zone. That included direct maintenance.

"To pick out one thing that (CSSB 10) did, I don't think you could do that," Field said.

While the battalion was thrilled with the award, their excitement was somewhat tarnished, its former commanding officer Marine Lt. Col. Robert Winkle said.

Lance Cpl. Chad Bales, a logistical vehicle systems operator, was killed in a vehicle accident April 3, just southwest of the Tigris River in Iraq, Winkle said. Winkle, now with the Georgia Tech and Morehouse College ROTC programs, said dedicating the Phoenix Award trophy to Bales just seemed the right thing to do as a battalion.

"We just wanted to recognize his sacrifice," he said. "He was the only Marine we didn't bring back. It was the only thing (Bales' mother) asked, was that Chad not be forgotten."

CSS Battalion 10 deployed at the end of January and officially returned from Iraq around the first of June, Winkle said.

The other five winners of the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards for 2004 are:

Small Category

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

509th Munitions Squadron, Whiteman Air Force Base

Medium Category

3rd Military Intelligence Battalion (Aerial Exploitation), Camp Humphreys, US Army, Republic of Korea

Large Category

The USS Abraham Lincoln, US Navy

27th Maintenance Group, Cannon Air Force Base

FMI: www.29palms.usmc.mil

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