WASHINGTON — Soldiers and leaders from across the Army gathered this evening to recognize and honor 54 of the Army’s best supply, maintenance and transportation units from the Active and Reserve components.

Several of those units are from U.S. Army Forces Command and Soldiers representing those units were in attendance to accept awards for superior accomplishments in logistical operations.

The 2012 Chief of Staff of the Army Combined Logistics Excellence Awards banquet, hosted by the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, was held to bestow the Army’s highest recognition for logistics excellence: the Army Award for Maintenance Excellence, the Deployment Excellence Award and the Supply Excellence Award.

Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, vice chief of staff of the Army, was the guest speaker at the ceremony and opened his remarks by recounting an astounding logistical achievement of the Revolutionary War and comparing it to successes on today’s battlefields.

Austin described the 1775 Col. Henry Knox-led expedition to retrieve nearly 60 tons of captured cannons and other military supplies from upstate New York. The artillery they provided ultimately enabled Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army to end the siege of Boston and force the British to withdraw. The Knox expedition has been called one of the most stupendous logistical feats of the Revolutionary War.

“...and that ladies and gentlemen is the history of this combined logistics community,” said Austin.

“Had it not been for the remarkable and courageous contributions made by Knox and his team, the outcome in Boston would have likely been much different.

“And certainly the same can be said of the conflicts of this past decade,” Austin said, “we could not have accomplished all that we have in Iraq and Afghanistan were it not for the countless remarkable contributions made by the men and women of this logistics community.”

Seven FORSCOM units earned the Army’s highest logistics awards:

AAME: For demonstrating the highest levels of outstanding achievements in maintenance and maintenance management:

• Headquarters Support Company, 277th Aviation Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

DEA: For outstanding deployment accomplishments that meet or exceed established deployment standards and to capture and share innovative deployment initiatives that have improved the deployment process:

• 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.

• Alpha Company, 62nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas

• 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.

SEA: For excellence in supply operations:

• Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1916th Support Battalion, Fort Irwin, Calif.

• Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 49th Transportation Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas

• Company E, 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Fort Bliss, Texas

Brig. Gen. John R. O’Connor, FORSCOM’s deputy chief of staff, G-4, met with the FORSCOM Soldiers representing units earlier in the day to personally thank them for their service and for their units’ achievements.

“What you have achieved here is excellence, it’s discipline,” said O’Connor.

“I have the honor to represent more than 800,000 men and women in uniform, across Forces Command, to stop here and recognize you, the selected few that have achieved so much.”

The 159th Combat Aviation Brigade earned its DEA distinction by successfully deploying 98 helicopters and shipping 253 sensitive, critical item containers from Fort Campbell to Kandahar, Afghanistan, under an extremely tight timeline with no in-transit pilferage or loss.

“I have an awesome unit and that’s what made this happen,” explained Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Dougherty, the 159th’s mobility officer, “It’s crazy; it’s absolutely crazy; but after it’s done, it feels so good when you see that equipment all of a sudden, boom, it’s configured and it’s on the battlefield. There is no better feeling than that as a transporter.”

This year, for the first time, the CLEA program selected one unit from across the total Army as the ‘Best of the Best’ in each of the logistics disciplines.

This prestigious honor was not revealed until the end of the banquet, when the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade was announced as the Army’s best of 13 DEA winners for outstanding deployment accomplishments.

Maj. Jason Kahne, the 159th’s executive officer, summarized how his unit earned this distinction.

“I think the real winners tonight are the individual Soldiers serving at home and around the world,” he said. “The combat readiness of each Soldier is improved by this rigorous competition; and, therefore, the readiness of our entire Army is raised to a higher level.”