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NEWS | Sept. 26, 2014

Michigan's 1073rd Support Maintenance Company wins top Army honor

By Master Sgt. Denice Rankin Michigan National Guard

LANSING, Mich. - A Michigan Army National Guard unit recently was awarded the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence and the Best of the Best in the Army Maintenance community.

The award, presented Sept. 10 at the Pentagon, means that Michigan’s 1073rd Support Maintenance Company will represent the Army in the Defense Department competition for the Phoenix Award.

The Department of the Army funded one Soldier to travel to the award ceremony in the Pentagon auditorium. The 1073rd Company Commander Capt. Daniel Daugherty selected Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joey North, an armament warrant officer and Lansing resident to be the one.

“Although this award represents the 1073rd’s combined efforts, Chief North spent many additional hours, sometimes until midnight, preparing the award packages to make sure our efforts were accurately represented so that the unit received the on-site inspection by the Department of Defense inspectors,” Daugherty said.

Daugherty and two Soldiers, Sgt. Eric Trygstad and Pfc. Dustin Fisher traveled to Washington, D.C., to represent the unit.

Kathleen Miller, the acting deputy chief of staff for G-4 (Logistics), spoke first to the awardees.

“You have been creative and relentless in your drive to support our Soldiers. When we asked the judges: ‘What was the determining factor in their winning?’ their answer was ‘leadership.’ Your units have NCOs, warrant officers, officers, and civilians who mentored and empowered every Soldier and every staff member to work hard, be accountable, and be team players,” Miller said.

The Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond Odierno, addressed the attendees before presenting the awards and noted that through his 38 years of military service, in peacetime and wars, he thoroughly understands the importance of relying on the sustainers.

“The logisticians …are always there, working hard, behind the scenes. Ensuring we have what we need, on time, in the right place, accounting for our equipment. Doing all the things necessary to ensure we are prepared to conduct operations. We simply do it better than anyone else in the world,” Odierno said.

During the ceremony, the Soldiers learned of another level of maintenance excellence competition: “The Best of the Best.” This is awarded to the best overall unit of all categories combined (MTOE, Table of Distribution and Allowance, and Depot level) within the U.S. Army, Reserve, and Guard. The 1073rd was also selected.

Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, was quick to recognize the 1073rd’s achievement and posted on Facebook:

“I was delighted to hear a few minutes ago that among the 16 Active, Reserve and National Guard units receiving the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence in the Combined Logistics Excellence Awards (CLEA) here at the Pentagon this morning, the Michigan National Guard’s 1073rd Support Maintenance company was named “Best of the Best,” a closely guarded secret until today’s ceremony. Fantastic work! Congratulations to all winners at today’s CLEA, especially the 12 National Guard recipients!”

As the Department of the Army winner, the 1073rd SMC will now compete for the Secretary of Defense Phoenix Award, which will encompass military maintenance representatives from the Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. The organization that receives the Phoenix Award is the best of the best among the U.S. Armed Forces’ maintenance community.

According to Daugherty, the phoenix is symbolically representative of the 1073rd SMC.

“In Greek mythology, the phoenix is cyclically reborn; attaining a new life,” Daugherty said.

“After a 2010 overseas deployment, 1073rd Soldiers complained that they had not touched a wrench in five years. Training had been devoted to increasing tactical knowledge; but at the expense of degrading technical expertise. A Command Climate Survey reflected that morale was dismal so I decided to swing the pendulum in the other direction and take action to increase morale. When we gave the Soldiers the opportunity to do what they signed up for, their morale increased,” Daugherty concluded.

A certified mechanic when he joined the Michigan National Guard, Fisher appreciated the hands-on work.

“Having a chance to practice our MOS in a real world environment and repairing actual faults has helped to advance my career and knowledge. It also keeps things interesting. We aren’t just at the unit every drill weekend; we get out and do more things. I typically look forward to drill weekend and am very proud to be in this unit,” said Fisher.

To continue the improvement trend, Daugherty and other 1073rd leaders realized it was necessary to decentralize work processes and allow Soldiers at the lowest level to have more control of their training.

“The atmosphere led to a chain reaction of events that propelled the unit forward beyond expectations The 1073rd Soldiers desired to offer quality training and soon formed a network of contacts from surrounding units who needed their support and desired to assist with training agendas,” said Daugherty.

By 2012, the 1073rd had maintenance teams supporting many units on any given weekend. At the time of the cultural change in the company, the 1073rd submitted the first packet for the AAME award and won second place at the National Guard Bureau level.

In 2013, the 1073rd submitted another AAME packet. This time the company won first place at the state, regional, National Guard Bureau and Department of the Army levels. This included an intense investigation by DA level inspectors who determined if the written submission was truly practiced.

“Today, 1073rd members’ morale and esprit de corps are exceptional. Soldiers are proud to be a part of this unit and are held to a high standard by peers and supervision. Similar to the phoenix, the 1073rd has risen out of the ashes to reveal a new vibrant life,” said Daugherty.Trygstad, a squad leader in the automotive platoon has seen the fruit of the unit’s labor.

“When the 1073rd started to perform maintenance support missions across the state it breathed new life into drill weekends for me. These missions gave me the chance to hone my skills as a leader and to pass on the knowledge and experience I have gained over the years to a new generation of Soldiers. These Soldiers now have a mission and we as a unit are thankful for that,” Trygstad said.