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Feature Stories

NEWS | May 20, 2017

Blackhawk crew chiefs receive combat patch from U.S. Army Central Commanding General

By Sgt. Bethany Huff U.S. Army Central

ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait – The patches placed on the right shoulder sleeve signify wartime service, often called combat patches.

These patches are a rarity for Soldiers who’s first deployment in Kuwait, as Kuwait is not considered a combat zone. However, Soldiers with Company A, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, have a unique opportunity to receive their combat patches.

“When required, we go to combat zones to do a number of things,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Gonzalez, the platoon leader for A Co., who went on to state that the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters bus supplies to troops in combat zones.

One of the many other things that the unit provides for the units within the U.S. Army Central footprint, is providing air transportation for distinguished visitors such as the commanding general of U.S. Army Central, Lt. Gen. Michael Garrett.

On Garrett’s most recent battlefield circulation, Gonzalez arranged for two of his UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew chiefs to receive their very first combat patch in a very special way.

“It was such a surprise!” Said Spc. Benjamin Baldwin, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew chief, for Company A, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment. “I’ve flown with the general before, but never expected him to present us with our combat patches.”

Gonzales ensured his Soldiers were unaware of the impromptu combat patch ceremony until they arrived at the helicopter pad at Ali Al Salem Air Base and shut the helicopters down.

While the Soldiers were initially confused at the sudden change of plans, Garrett started talking to them and getting them ready to receive their combat patches.

“For these guys, the patch is a piece of cloth for them that they earned,” said Gonzales, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas. “But it’s not just a patch, [Garrett] sent them words of encouragement and motivation to continue to do the work that they’re doing.”

Humbled and stunned, the crew chiefs stood next to their aircraft soaking up Garrett’s story of how he received his first combat patch and what it meant to him.

“It is such an honor,” said Spc. Jesus Santiago, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crew chief, for Company A, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment. “I never thought that a three star, especially my own commander, would ever take the time to place my combat patch on my shoulder.”

The Soldiers performed over 60 hours of flight time in and out of combat zones, while ensuring that their aircrafts are well maintained. The Soldiers are attached to the crews that move passengers, cargo, and aircrafts within the U.S. Army Central footprint.

“I wanted to recognize the two Soldiers because they’re younger guys, hard workers,” said Gonzalez, who went on to describe each Soldier. “I’m proud to say that I work for a commander willing to take time out of his day to meet with them. Those two specialists will remember that day for the rest of their lives.”