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For the first time in five years, a U.S. Army Europe unit was a top winner at the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards.

Company C, 501st Military Intelligence Battalion, Wackernheim, Germany, was one of six units recognized for work it completed in 2006. The award ceremony took place Nov. 15 in Orlando, Fla.

“Each year, the secretary of Defense recognizes excellence in both field-level and depot-level maintenance by presenting eight awards, including the Phoenix and the Robert T. Mason Awards,” said Mario Ambriz, a USAREUR logistics management specialist who attended the ceremony.

From across the military, including active and reserve components, two units were honored in each of the small, medium and large categories, and one of the final six was chosen as the Phoenix Award winner for best performance overall, Ambriz said.

The Phoenix winner this year was the Marines’ 1st Maintenance Battalion from Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The last time a Germany-based unit won an award was in 2002, Ambriz said.

Ironically, there were no 501st soldiers around to pick up the award. Because of transformation, the 501st no longer exists, having been inactivated on Aug. 15.

“We had to go and get them,” Ambriz said of the former 501st soldiers who attended the ceremony and accepted the award.

Due to the nature of the competition, the road to the winner’s circle is a lengthy one.

The 501st first had to win at the USAREUR and Department of the Army levels before being considered as the best in the military.

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