Hundreds of Medals for Aviation Support Battalion - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/15/06

Hundreds of Medals for Aviation Support Battalion

The 603rd Aviation Support Battalion's motto is "Without us, there would be no combat power." And that's no exaggeration. Today at Hunter Army Airfield, the Army gave medals to some 600 soldiers who kept the Third Infantry Division up and running in Iraq.

They tackled some of the worst problems, with some of the most sophisticated equipment in the Army. From the tiniest grains of sand getting somewhere they shouldn't to the biggest explosions a chopper can take.

After filling more than 3.5 million gallons of fuel in one year and running six recovery missions into enemy territory, the 603rd was ready to hand out some hardware.

"You've truly lived up to our motto, 'No mission denied,'" said Lt. Col. Terry Rice. "You took on every mission and every challenge and made them look easy."

"We accomplished all kinds of missions, we worked endlessly, in and out around the clock," said Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Martinez. "Through harsh conditions. It was just a constant team effort."

Wednesday, the battalion's top brass gave out Bronze Stars, Meritorious Service, Army Commendation and Army Achievement medals, more than 600 in all. They earned them for doing the job right, often in half the time allowed by Army standards.

"That's what professional armies are all about," said Brig. Gen. Mark O'Neill. "That's what the US Army's all about."

And that work wasn't under easy circumstances. The Iraqi desert posed all sorts of problems for these high-tech helicopter mechanics.

"Wow. Can't even begin to start there," said Staff Sgt. Byron Montgomery. "Every time we turned around, before we pushed one out from getting worked on, we had two more waiting for us in the door."

They're back home now, but nobody knows for how long, or where they're headed next.

This was the 603rd's second deployment to Iraq since 2003. This time around, they were stationed at Camp Taji, just north of Baghdad.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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