MSG James W. Ponder III

Army Aviation Hall of Fame 2015 Induction - Nashville, TN

Master Sergeant James W. Ponder III, Deceased

MSG James W. (‘Tre’), Ponder III, was a native of Franklin, Tennessee. He attended Auburn University for 3 years and enlisted in the Army in 1990. He dedicated his military career to producing the finest Aviation Non-Rated Crew Members in the world. His vision of how to revolutionize the MH-47 crew member training program changed and professionalized how Army Aviation trains all its enlisted personnel even to this day.

MSG Ponder was assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (ABN), the “Night Stalkers” in 1992. He rapidly progressed from MH-47 Crew Chief to Flight Engineer

Instructor and conducted over 100 missions supporting the most elite Special Operators in the world. He was one of the first to deploy after 9/11 and played a major role in all the initial combat actions in Afghanistan against both Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Often these missions were conducted in some of the worst terrain in the country under zero illumination, high altitudes, channelizing valleys and brown-out conditions. The pilots of his battalion always wanted MSG Ponder in the lead aircraft in order to help them in tight tactical situations.

His exceptional grasp of both mission requirements and equipment led to his early selection as a Flight Engineer Instructor. He then developed a Nonrated Crewmember Trainer (NCT) program that is still being used by other Army Aviation units around the world. He consistently worked long hours and weekends to research new equipment and techniques for improving mission accomplishment resulting in his writing and staffing new publications and crewmember checklists.

In 2002 while serving as Regiment MH-47E/G Standardization Instructor he was directly responsible for the combat readiness of 380 NRCMs across 4 battalions and one training company. He was responsible for writing and updating Army Special Operations Aviation (ARSOA) NRCM publications; Training Circulars and the primary advisor to the Regiment Commander and Command Sergeant Major on NRCM readiness and training. In addition, he developed and updated Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs), Programs of Instructions (POIs), and crewmember operational checklists. His extraordinary work ethic and dedication resulted in some of the best employment techniques for the M-134 Mini-Gun, the M240 Machine Gun, FAST Rope operations, External Hoist Operations, Amphibious Operations and Special Vehicle Operations which were later adopted by all Army Aviation units.

On June 28, 2005, MSG Ponder was training on the day shift with 3d Battalion, 160th, in Afghanistan, when a Navy SEAL team called for help. MSG Ponder knew he was more rested than the night crews who had just landed, and he volunteered. During the approach to the landing zone Tre’s MH-47 was shot down by an RPG as depicted in the book and movie, “Lone Survivor.” Always placing the needs of others above his own, he made the ultimate sacrifice to save his comrades in distress.

MSG Ponder’s contributions to this country and Army Aviation will stand as a model for all future Aviation Soldiers to emulate. His lifetime aviation accomplishments have significantly contributed to the advancement of Army Aviation and its place in the force of the future.

CW5 Karl H. Maier

Army Aviation Hall of Fame 2015 Induction - Nashville, TN

CW5 Karl H. Maier

CW5 Karl Maier enlisted in the United States Army in December 1975. He completed Warrant Officer Candidate School and received his Aviator wings in 1984. In July 1987, CW5 Maier successfully assessed to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne).

Maier’s impact over the last 26 years on Special Operations Aviation has been immeasurable. He has served the 160th in every capacity from platoon instructor pilot to Regimental Warrant Officer. His involvement in every combat operation since 1987 places him at the pinnacle of Special Operations experience. His pioneering of Night Vision Goggle, (NVG), flight techniques and procedures, which he developed and proved through various combat operations over a period of more than two decades, helped 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 was awarded the Silver Star for leading the recovery operations of personnel injured after an MH-60 was shot down. Navigating the MH-6 ‘little bird’ Star 41, he searched for and found one of the two Blackhawks minutes after it had been shot down. His co-pilot noticed a fallen soldier propped against a wall severely bleeding from the stomach. Although landing in a big intersection near the wounded soldier would have been far easier, he eased the bird up the street between two stone houses and set it down on a slope. As he used his aircraft to shield the wounded, he engaged the numerically superior advancing enemy with his MP5 expending hundreds of rounds through his door opening while his copilot extracted two critically wounded soldiers from the ground force. As the consummate and quiet professional, Karl successfully resisted telling his story to anybody who would ask, for over 20 years.

Maier participated in numerous operations, including Operations JUST CAUSE, DESERT STORM, GOTHIC SERPENT (Somalia), UPHOLD DEMOCRACY, JOINT ENDEAVOR, ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF), and IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF). Since 2003, CW5 Maier deployed more than 20 times to OIF and OEF, providing unsurpassed experience and leadership in pursuit of the strategic objectives of the United States.

In April 2006, he was assigned duties as the first Regiment Chief Warrant Officer, guiding and mentoring the Regiment’s 300+ Warrant Officers and providing support directly to the Regimental Commander. His performance as a Night Stalker Flight Lead and consummate trainer throughout the Regiment mark him as the epitome pf a Special Operations Aviation Officer. Up until his retirement ceremony, Maier was the longest-tenured Night Stalker in the 160th SOAR (A). He had been in the unit since 1987, with a majority of his time serving in the same company. Pretty much everything you've read in any book about the 160th, Karl was a part of.

CW5 Maier’s impact on the 160th SOAR(A) extends far beyond his personal achievements. He has been a mentor and advisor to multiple generations of Aviators, Commanders, and enlisted Soldiers. Karl Maier has helped to develop many of the NVG Tactics Techniques and Procedures, (TTP’s), and Aircrew Training Manual, (ATM) tasks which define modern Army Aviation. CW5 Maier’s legacy will continue for many years to come, as the Night Stalkers who he has mentored over the past 26 years continue to uphold the high standards to which he has trained them. It is impossible to overstate the significance of his 38 years of active service to Army Aviation, the United States Army, and the Nation.


Army Aviation Hall of Fame 2016 Induction - Atlanta, GA

COL Harvey E. Stewart (deceased)

Joining the Army in 1945 as an aspiring aviator and enlisted man at the age of 17, COL Harvey E. Stewart received the first of his fifty four Flying Medals while serving in Korea as an Artillery Forward Observer in 1953.

A Master Aviator with over 12,000 flight hours and more than 1,000 combat missions,  COL Stewart received a total of 11 awards for valor including the Distinguished Service Cross, (the nation’s second highest), two Bronze Stars with “V” device, and two purple hearts.

As a Major, Stewart was known as a legendary Army Aviation commander of the 118th Aviation Company from 1964 – 65 in Vietnam.    During the June 1965 Battle of Dong Xoai, the 145th Aviation Battalion’s response to the enemy’s major offensive was largely coordinated by the 118th led by Major Stewart which later expanded to include the entire 145th and received a Presidential Unit Citation for its part in the battle.  In addition during the battle, Major Stewart volunteered to lead three unarmed rescue helicopters in an attempt to rescue Vietnamese and Americans in an isolated military compound being overrun by hostile forces.  Disregarding the withering enemy fire, Major Stewart landed inside the compound and set up defensive fire positions while evacuating personnel.  On takeoff, Major Stewart piloted his aircraft, heavily overloaded and damaged, through a barrage of hostile fire and successfully evacuated the besieged personnel. For his heroism at Dong Xoai Major Stewart was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

His following assignments included a second Vietnam combat tour, and training aviators for combat at Fort Wolters, TX, as he continued to contribute to the advancement of Army Aviation as a key component of modern warfare.  

Highly respected for his personal courage, as a military leader, and as a person, he stood tall for Army Aviation from some of its earliest days to the Vietnam era that changed the face of modern warfare as Army Aviation came of age.



Army Aviation Hall of Fame 2016 Induction - Atlanta, GA

CW5 Edmund W. Hubard, III

CW5 Ned Hubard’s 31-year career in Army Aviation combined a unique mix of operational, R&D and Command and Staff assignments with over 20 years in special mission units (SMUs), flying an amazingly diverse range of aircraft from UH-1s in Vietnam to piloting the first mission into Afghanistan in a Russian Mi-17.

In fact, CW5 Hubard has over 13,000 flying hours in over 150 types of aircraft and helicopters, is basic airborne qualified and trained as a HALO/HAHO jumper.

In the early 1980s, following the failed DESERT ONE Iranian hostage rescue mission, Mr. Hubard was recruited into Operation HONEY BADGER, the second Iranian hostage rescue mission, making him a “plank holder” in what would become the famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, (Airborne).  

Following the release of the hostages, he was nominated to serve in a newly created aviation unit doing research and development.  He spent the rest of his career developing concepts for unique aviation systems and missions. Many of the Helicopter and Mission Equipment Packages that are in use today by conventional Army Aviation were developed and tested by Ned Hubard in combat.

Retiring in 2000, Mr. Hubard, as a civilian, continued to support Army Aviation and ground forces, flying the first U.S.-piloted helicopter, as part of the Jawbreaker team in Afghanistan, two weeks after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  

No Warrant Officer has done more for Army Aviation, operationally, tactically, and technically than CW5 Ned Hubard. He epitomizes the Quiet Professional and Warrior and is truly ‘Above the Best’.



Army Aviation Hall of Fame 2016 Induction - Atlanta, GA

GEN James D. Thurman

Not since the famous “Howze Board” established the concept of Air Mobility and Air Assault in 1960 has anyone done more to shape the future for Army Aviation than GEN James D. (JD) Thurman, Ret.

In 2003, at the request of the Army Chief of Staff, then MG Thurman convened the first Army Aviation Task Force to revamp the entire structure of Army Aviation. Combining his unique experiences as both an Armor officer and former Army Aviator he literally set the course for the branch for the next 20 years.

Earlier in his career as a Major, JD had served as Brigade Operations Officer for the Apache Training Brigade at Fort Hood and personally supervised execution of the AH-64 Apache Single Station Unit Fielding and Training Plan for the first ten squadrons/battalions. He was recognized as the AAAA Aviation Trainer of the year in 1987.

Uniquely qualified as a senior Army leader and experienced aviator, JD led this Aviation Task Force to redirecting $13 Billion from his recommended cancellation of the RAH-66 Comanche in order to buy 900 aircraft and modernize the existing fleets of CH-47s, UH-60s, and AH-64s as well as aviation survivability systems, ammunition, and unmanned systems. The Task Force addressed all aspects of aviation functionality across the total Army and resulted in the army aviation force we have today.

An operational “Soldier’s Soldier”, GEN Thurman retired after 38 years in December 2013. There is no doubt that his leadership, insights and decisions have left a legacy that has made his former branch the most potent Army Aviation force in the world.

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