The Department of Defense named the 801st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron the 2015 winner of the Phoenix Award for Maintenance Excellence, during this year’s secretary of defense awards ceremony held Dec. 8.
The Phoenix Award is presented annually to designate the single best maintenance unit out of that year’s six Secretary of Defense Field-Level Maintenance Award winners.
“I am extremely proud and humble to be a part of this organization,” said Maj. Philip Broyles, commander of the 801st SOAMXS. “We ask a lot of our folks each and every day. This award validates the hard work and initiative, not to mention the blood, sweat and tears, of working this airframe. This victory not only represents the hard work of our maintainers, but is representative of the hard work of maintainers across the Air Force.”
The 801st SOAMXS mission is to perform all equipment maintenance in support of worldwide special operations missions in response to national command authority taskings for the CV-22B Osprey supporting the 8th Special Operations Squadron. The 801st SOAMXS maintains 17 CV-22 Osprey aircraft valued at $1.5 billion.
“Our team is not afraid of challenge,” Broyles said. “We tackle it each and every day. I love being part of a team that doesn’t say ‘I can’t’, but instead operates in the realm of what’s possible. Keeping that frame of reference allows us to do a lot of great things.”
The squadron, comprised of less than 300 personnel, generated more than 1,200 sorties and 3,500 flying hours accounting for 28 percent of the 1st Special Operations Wing’s required missions in fiscal year 2014, according to the award citation. The actions of the squadron to modernize and sustain the force culminated with the development of an in-house repair capability of CV-22 components. This in-house repair capability allows maintainers to repair aircraft parts locally and saved taxpayers more than $46 million. The squadron’s dedication led to the recovery of three battle damaged CV-22 aircraft valued at $267M, repairing as needed for safe transportation, and returning aircraft to home station for major depot repairs.
“It’s about team. We’re just the ones who have the spotlight on us,” said Broyles. “There is a larger CV-22 community that is very much a part of our success. It is also our leadership. From our group commander, Col. [Rene] Leon, to our wing commander, Col. Sean Farrell, to the Air Force Special Operations commander, Lt. Gen. [Bradley] Heithold, they set the stage for our success. Of course, I must mention my predecessor, Lt. Col. Jeff Johns; his leadership was a huge part of that success.”
During the period of Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014, the 801st SOAMXS delivered on directives from the President of the United States, the U.S. Department of State, secretary of defense and U.S. Special Operations Command for more than 40 missions, 36 sorties and 660 flying hours combined. Fully integrated in joint missions, the 801st SOAMXS was U.S. Army Special Forces number one choice. The squadron supported 135 of their personnel in 12 missions spanning 26 sorties and 78 flying hours.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team, command and group of people,” Broyles said. “It makes my day to see our folks succeed.”
In the 31 years of the Phoenix Award’s existence, the Air Force has won only seven times. One of those seven times was when the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Group won in 2008. This year, being the smallest unit in the competition and coming home with a victory made the win even more special.
“We want to make sure these guys understand the importance of the award,” said Chief Master Sgt. Reginald Evans, superintendent of the 801st SOAMXS. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and to win at [the DOD level] is a huge accomplishment. I don’t think it has sunk in for them.”
According to 801st SOAMXS leadership, winning the award doesn’t change the core of their Airmen.
“Outwardly, what you will see is exactly what we reflect—quiet professionals,” Broyles said. “You will see these 801st maintainers doing their job as hard and as well as they have been doing it in the past. Maintaining the ‘quiet professional’ mindset, what it means to be an Air Commando.”
Serving in their tenth straight year as an asset in overseas contingency operations, the men and women of the 801st SOAMXS continue to deliver dependable aircraft for real-world training, aircraft testing and an aggressive modification schedule.
“We take this as an opportunity not to rest on this award, but to continue to look for ways to get better,” said Broyles. “We’re not content sitting still.”