Army Aviation Hall of Fame adds three more at March 30th ceremony
The Army Aviation Association of America (Quad-A) held its annual three-day convention, known as the Army Aviation Mission Solutions Summit, on March 29-31 in Nashville, Tennessee. Held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort, the event attracted nearly 7,000 attendees to its general and deep-dive sessions, tradeshow and additional evening activities.
One of them was the 42nd anniversary Army Aviation Hall of Fame ceremony, a black-tie gala dinner held on Monday, March 30, to induct three more outstanding Army Aviators onto the roster of 155 previously so honored. This year’s class is:
The late Master Sergeant James W. “Tre” Ponder, III – A native of Franklin, Tennessee, MSG Ponder dedicated his career to producing the finest Aviation Non-Rated Crew Members in the world. His vision of how to revolutionize the MH-47 Chinook crew member training program changed and professionalized how Army Aviation trains all of its enlisted personnel even to this day.
In 1992, MSG Ponder was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) “Night Stalkers”. He was one of the first to deploy after 9/11 and played a major role in initial combat operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan. His development and updating of combat tactics, techniques and procedures were later adopted by all Army Aviation units.
On June 28, 2005, MSG Ponder was conducting training at his base in Afghanistan when the urgent call for help came in from a four-man Navy SEAL team battling a numerically superior force on a mountaintop of Kunar Province. Volunteering to join the mission, Ponder, seven fellow Night Stalkers and quick-reactionary force of eight Navy SEALS took off on an MH-47 and headed to the battle. As they approached the combat zone, their MH-47 was shot down by an enemy-launched rocket propelled grenade, killing all 16 aboard (Readers may be familiar with this incident, documented in the book and the film “Lone Survivor”). MSG made the ultimate sacrifice in the effort to save his comrades in arms. His lifetime aviation accomplishments continue to significantly advance Army Aviation and its place in the force of the future.
Accepting his enshrinement was MSG Ponder’s widow, Leslie, accompanied by daughters Samantha and Elizabeth and his parents. Their escort was Command Sergeant Major Buford Thomas (Ret).
Chief Warrant Officer Five Karl H. Maier (Ret) - CW5 Maier was born in San Francisco, California, enlisted in the Army in 1975, and joined the 160th SOAR “Night Stalkers” in 1987. Over his 26 years with the 160th, CW5 Maier has participated in every Special Operations Aviation combat operation, placing him at the pinnacle of Special Ops experience. His pioneering of Night Vision Goggle flight techniques and procedures revolutionized the effectiveness of Army Aviation on the battlefield . In 1993, during his deployment to Somalia as the primary planner and flight lead for the Special Operations Task Force Ranger during Operation GOTHIC SERPENT, CW5 Maier led the recovery of personnel injured after an MH-60 Blackhawk was shot down. Piloting the MH-6 “Little Bird” to find the location of the downed helicopter, after finding injured soldiers he directed his Little Bird to a street landing that put them between the wounded and the enemy. Maier then held off a numerically superior advancing enemy force, expending hundreds of machine gun rounds through his door opening, allowing his co-pilot to extract the critically wounded (Readers may be familiar with this incident documented in the book and film “Black Hawk Down”). His actions during this rescue earned Maier a Silver Star.