BY TYRONE C MARSHALL JR. – WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii – By the time deploying Soldiers are ‘wheels up,’ the people behind the scenes within the rear detachment have already been working long and hard to support their forward deployed counterparts.
This job, as with many, can have long hours and little rest for those charged with continuing home station operations.
For this reason, a group of spouses from 3rd Battalion, 25th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, created an organization and award to recognize Soldiers that have gone above and beyond the call of duty while serving in a rear detachment capacity, regardless of branch of service.
Joan Baker, spouse of Lt. Col. Gregory Baker, former commander of 3-25th GSAB, and chairperson, led the committee of prominent spouses including Toni Ruiz, fundraising chairperson, Melissa Gardner, treasurer, Carmen Perkins, committee secretary, and M. Todd Williams, outreach coordinator, to form the Order of St. Joseph Award committee.
The award’s inaugural recipients were Capt. Heath Holt, rear detachment commander, 3-25th GSAB, and Sgt. 1st Class Leanna Lynch, rear detachment noncommissioned officer in charge.
Joan discussed how the award initially came about.
“It started when my husband was home on mid-tour leave. We certainly knew we had some very special people in our rear detachment,” said the Papillion, Neb. native. “I said to him ‘how do we say thank you?’ because I don’t want to give [them] some cheesy plaque. Yes, that’s nice but it gets hung on the wall, and nobody ever really looks at it.”
Melissa Gardner, of Brookhaven, Miss., and committee treasurer, shared her excitement with the award’s creation.
“Out of all the things I’ve done being a military spouse … this is what I’m most excited about. When you look at the job that they did … I just know that they went beyond anything we ever expected. I’m constantly amazed at how involved they were.”
She spoke of some of the hurdles the group faced.
“Time was a challenge. We realized that once we decided exactly what we wanted the award to embody. That was the hardest part – trying to decide exactly how we wanted the award to be portrayed to the public to capture what the rear detachment was doing, especially for Captain Holt and Sergeant Lynch.”
Joan shared why St. Joseph was selected to represent the non-profit organization.
“We chose St. Joseph because he is the patron saint of families. He is historically, and biblically, known for patience, persistence, hard work; humility, compassion. And certainly those are all qualities that we think Captain Holt and Sergeant Lynch exhibited. I think that’s what you see in the best of the rear detachment personnel out there.”
She added, “I really want to make it clear it’s non-denominational; there’s no religious affiliation or anything like that with it. We simply chose St. Joseph as a symbol.”
In addition to the award itself, the committee also created two $500 scholarships, the Capt. Heath D. Holt Scholarship, and the Sgt. 1st Class Leanna M. Lynch Scholarship, named in honor of its first two recipients.
“We’re just so excited about being able to give the award to Captain Holt and Sergeant Lynch … We think that’s really a fantastic tribute to indicate how much they did for us and for what they will continue to do for families in the future.”
The two recipients were shocked when they were told of the award and scholarships.
“I was completely surprised,” said Holt, of Greenville, Ky. “I had no idea Joan or any of the other spouses had put that together. Neither one of us knew anything about it and [we were] completely surprised and honored. I was blown away by that.
“It was tough not to get emotional about it. Education is really important to me. If there is anything we can to do to help other folks out I think scholarships are a great way to do it. You’re helping someone else better themselves. I couldn’t say thanks enough.”
Lynch, of Whitman, Mass., was equally surprised and most proud of the scholarship.
“My reaction initially was shock. I was trying to figure out what Mrs. Baker was talking about specifically. We’ve been through a lot over the years so it could have been any number of different things. Captain Holt and I were looking at each other … like ‘is it you, is it you?’ They called him up and that is when it hit me that they were talking about us.
“I was emotional because I was surprised and didn’t expect it. And I was very honored to be given this award. I was at a loss for words the entire time. My thoughts on the scholarship were ‘Oh my God, somebody’s kid gets to go to college because of me.’ Even if it’s being able to take one class because of it they have the opportunity to go to college. I think honestly that is the greatest thing. I can’t find words [to describe it.]”
It is also important to the organization that the word spreads because it is intended for all branches of service.
“It is something we would like to see military wide,” said Melissa. “Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines. Whether it’s called a rear detachment or something else, we’re all doing the same job and they all deserve recognition for that.”
With the award’s inception, the committee wants to ensure it remains exclusive.
“It’s really important to us that the award maintains its integrity,” said Joan. “We don’t want it to be something that every rear detachment commander gets. We really want it to be for the best of the best, because that’s what we had and that’s what inspired us.”
For more information, please visit: www.orderofsaintjoseph.org
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs