Story and photo by Dustin Senger
Hundreds of Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, assembled Nov. 2 for a command sergeant major change of responsibility ceremony at Butts Army Airfield.
With two months remaining before their first combat deployment since relocating from South Korea in 2009, the Soldiers of 1st Bn., 2nd Avn. Reg., gathered to formalize a routine change of the unit’s command sergeant major. The attack battalion’s hangar contained seven companies and a dozen AH-64 Apaches.
Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Johnson received the battalion colors, and then passed them to Lt. Col. David Moga, 1st Bn., 2nd Avn. Reg., commander, relinquishing his responsibilities. Moga handed the staff to Command Sgt. Maj. Keith Cooper, symbolizing his appointment as the battalion’s senior enlisted leader.
“Tim, thanks for the great handover. Thirty days of watching you, and learning from you, watching this organization was great,” Cooper said.
More than 400 Soldiers from the battalion are scheduled to depart in January for a one-year deployment to Afghanistan. They’ll head into battle with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, from Fort Shafter, Hawaii. The brigade commander, Col. Frank Tate, had arrived to attend the change of responsibility ceremony.
Moga commended Johnson’s consistent willingness to dive into difficult situations. He recalled an evening at a forward arming and refueling point, where as soon as Apache rotor blades stopped turning “mosquitoes came in and took over the pad,” he said. Crews were laboring through bug bites and long hours, amid darkening conditions.
“They went to work like clockwork, like a NASCAR pit crew,” said Moga. “I looked over to the left side of an aircraft and there was one of these Soldiers loading rockets, moving a little bit differently than the rest of them. I couldn’t see his eyes but his skin looked a little bit worn, a little bit older.
“This is our battalion sergeant major, at the right place and at the right time, where it is toughest and most dangerous for our Soldiers to work,” said Moga, explaining that Johnson’s noncommissioned officers were running the pad, while their command sergeant major got his hands dirty.
“We never had to wait on an aircraft or on a Soldier to get the job done,” said Moga. “And it wasn’t an accident that we did it without any accidents, without any injuries.
“We did it to standard because you’ve led from the front and because you exemplified the outstanding leadership that our NCOs have,” he said to Johnson.
“He’s been in the Army about 24 years, he’s been in the Army from the bottom up,” said Moga, commending a tough career that’s included equipping AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters. “Every time he gave me advice, I was lucky and fortunate to benefit from his 24 years of experience going through my brain.”
Johnson said 1st Bn., 2nd Avn. Reg., has experienced just about every environment, “from the blazing heat of the National Training Center (at Fort Irwin, Calif.), to the windy, snowy, frigid cold of the Colorado mountains.
“They’ve trained harder than any other unit I’ve served with in the last 10 years,” said Johnson, a three-time combat veteran. “‘Gunfighters,’ you’re definitely more than ready for your challenges ahead. I look forward to hearing about your accomplishments during your deployment.”
“When we come home … with our flags held high,” said Moga, turned toward Johnson, “the people who are carrying those flags are those who became NCOs during your two years here.”