Aviators tackle key issues during conference

CW2 Randy Aguirre meets his newborn baby girl, Amelia May, at the redeployment ceremony Tuesday morning at the Fort Rucker Spiritual Life Center. 

Army Aviation brigade commanders, their command warrant officers and command sergeants major who were not deployed participated in the Aviation Senior Leaders Conference held at Fort Rucker Jan. 28-31.

Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, hosted the event that included breakout sessions and guest speakers. Aviation leaders tackled key issues impacting the future of the Branch.

“It’s important for Aviation leaders in uniform today to understand what we’re focusing on and to give us some return fire on where we may be. We absolutely want, need, ask for your feedback,” Mangum said.

With fiscal constraints looming, Aviation’s focus has shifted to sustainment of the fleet, an element that is “critical for our relevance and survival in the future,” Mangum said.

Maj. Gen. William “Tim” Crosby, Program Executive Officer for Army Aviation, Redstone Arsenal, headed up a panel of PEO and project managers who gave updates on current Aviation issues, including the AH-64E and Kiowa Warrior programs.

Crosby said he also welcomes input from Aviation leaders to help generate solutions.

“As long as I’ve been around, I haven’t seen too many good ideas come from the top; they come from out there in the field. What PEO and the PMs have done is a result of what you’ve enabled,” Crosby said.

Command Sgt. Maj. James H. Thomson Jr., Command Sergeant Major of the Aviation Branch, conducted a breakout luncheon with command sergeants major and sergeants major who are the talent managers of the Army.

The future enlisted training model includes changes to Advanced Individual Training, tools to track and manage experiential learning, and professional civilian certificates and licenses, Thomson said.

The bottom line is the combat Aviation brigade.

“The heart of Army Aviation are those combat Aviation brigades that are out there supporting the ground Soldiers and commanders,” Thomson said. “You don’t want to be operating in a vacuum, making decisions and coming up with great ideas if it doesn’t really meet the needs of those CABs.”

CW5 Michael L. Reese, Chief Warrant Officer of the Aviation Branch, led a session addressing the need for instructor pilots.

“The issue in the Branch we face right now is a shortage of instructor pilots and maintenance test pilots at the junior grades, at the (warrant officer) W2 and W3 grades. We have a lot of senior instructor pilots and maintenance technical training intructor pilots that are retirement eligible. The branch is trying to fix that deficit. There are barriers that until we do these kind of briefs we might not be aware of, including deployment cycle and available seats,” Reese said.

The main shortage is the AH-64, but the Army has personnel to fill the seats, Reese said. Requirements include aptitude, flight proficiency, judgment and maturity.

“It’s the responsibility of the commanders to identify those attributes, but also for the individual … just to get in the running,” Reese said.

The event included a session on soldiering, and leading that centered on character development, shaping conduct in a more positive narrative, and how ethics and value sets drive behavior.

Col. Jeffrey D. Peterson, with the Center for the Army Profession and Ethic, based at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., said being a professional is more than doing one’s job.

“There’s a service component to it, and there’s an ethic component to it,” Peterson said. “We’ve got to get the incentives right. We truly believe if people have the right identity as a professional that they’ll have the right ethics and values set, and (those) will drive behavior.”

Mangum said every leader has the responsibility to ignite that passion in their people.

“We’ve got to seize the narrative. It’s positive, it’s powerful and we all need to get our arms around it to promote who we are, why we’re a profession and what we need to do to continue to bolster and reinforce that professional ethic,” Mangum said.

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