GREENSBORO — The deep thump, thump, thump of the helicopter heard over Lake Oconee late Thursday morning sounded distinctly different than the otherwise normal incoming private helicopter sound. What emerged over the tree line of Cuscowilla was a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter piloted by members from the 1-171st Aviation Regiment and occupied by members of the 560th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade of the Georgia Army National Guard.
These troops were on a local mission to show appreciation to Chris Hilsman and Doug Tumlin of Pilot Builders for their support that has always been evident; but specifically during the past year and a half. During that timeframe one of their employees, Kris Marshall (known in the National Guard as Maj. Kris Marshall, Operations Officer for the 221st Military Intelligence Battalion) participated in multiple Overseas Deployment Training Events (ODTs). These teams comprised of citizen-soldiers traveled to such far off places as the Republic of Korea, Uganda, Germany, Italy, and Rwanda to participate in missions.
Thursday, 13 members from the Georgia National Guard traveled to the helicopter pad at Cuscowilla to say thanks for the company’s support of the National Guard. Upon landing at Cuscowilla, the group of soldiers met the entire Pilot Builders team and were then given a police escort by Putnam County Sheriff, Howard Sills and Cuscowilla’s CEO Andrew Ward to the Golf House Grill for the luncheon ceremony and award presentation. During the ceremony, LTC Raquel Durden, Commander of the 221st Military Intelligence Battalion, presented Chris Hilsman and Doug Tumlin with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve’s “My Boss is a Patriot Award.” This was Hilsman’s and Tumlin’s second receipt of the award in addition to 2009’s Freedom Award for exemplary support of the National Guard. Pilot Builders was also presented with a framed American flag by Maj. Marshall. “This flag was carried throughout our mission covering travels to Germany, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Italy. It was a constant reminder of why we as Citizen-Soldiers serve, and of the friends and co-workers that support ourfamilies while we are away.”
“Things only seem to break when we are eight time zones away,” commented Maj. Kris Marshall during the ceremony as he also thanked his coworkers who provide assistance to his wife, Jennie, during the recent deployments. While many thanks were given to the staff of Pilot Builders, special thanks were also given to Andrew Ward and his team at Cuscowilla for the warm reception and use of the facilities to help make this a memorable visit. “The members of the Georgia Army National Guard appreciate the hospitality,” commented Lt. Col. Durden. In addition to supporting the National Guard, Cuscowilla opened their doors to other members of the local community for this visit and hosted the students and teachers from the Redeemer Episcopal Academy for a field trip to take pictures of the kids climbing aboard the Black Hawkhelicopter.
At the end of the day, members of Pilot Builders were recognized as well as the entire Cuscowilla Team. Jennie Marshall also received a Certificate of Appreciation for her 12 years of support to Maj. Marshall and the entire Georgia Army National Guard.
“The day was a great opportunity to recognize some very patriotic employers, family members and community members as well as to say thank you to Soldiers of the Georgia National Guard,” said Andrew Ward.