Historical Perspective / By General John R. Gutherie, Commander, USA Materiel Development and Readiness Command: Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen and members of “D” Company, 158th Aviation Battalion.
This is, indeed, a great day for the Army, for American industry and for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). It is also, for me, a personal and professional pleasure and honor to participate in another ceremony marking the achievement of a major milestone in the fielding of one of the “Big Five,” and to represent not one but two Chiefs of Staff of the Army who would, except for pressing duties, be here today. They did, however, ask me to express both their regrets at not being able to come and their great satisfaction that we have achieved this milestone in the Black Hawk program.
Too often we hear it said that you can’t put your finger on who’s responsible for what happens – good or bad – to a program. Normally, this is caused by the lack of continuity of people in the job. It is a personal pleasure, therefore, for me to point out that there are at least four of us here – Bill Crawford, Gerry Tobias, Dick Kenyon, and I – on whom you can put the finger.
I’m proud to say that I was Director of Development in the Office of Chief, Research and Development when the demonstrator engine program began, Deputy Commanding General for Materiel Acquisition at AMC when the UTTAS request for proposal was issued and the program began, that I contributed personally to structuring the program (we had no engineering development phase}, and that I was again back in a responsible position to help Bill, Gerry, and Dick through their trials of initial production and deliveries. Now, Dick will be leaving us, at an appropriate time in that this development phase is now complete with the deliveries of these first production models to a TOE unit, but the rest of us will still be here to see how well his integrated logistics support plan works.
Another first for the 101st!
So much for such reminiscing. This is, by any measurement, a truly historic day for the Army and for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Another first for the 101st! Like that day 21 months ago when, with the help of Jim Thorpe’s son, Carl, we named the UTTAS the Black Hawk. This morning represents another milestone in the Army/Industry effort to provide the total Army with modern equipment to enable it to meet the threat of the 80s.
We are fielding the first production models of a modern, much needed troopcarrying helicopter of greatly increased capabilities to a regular TOE active Army unit, “D” Company 158th Aviation Battalion, the Ghost Riders. In so doing, we not only fulfill a commitment made 14 months ago when the Black Hawk colors were presented to this unit upon its designation as the Army’s first Black Hawk Company, but also initiate a process which will see some 48 new systems fielded over the next 5 years.
The two aircraft you have seen in flight are symbolic of the culmination of many hard years of effort by General Electric Sikorsky Aircraft, their sub-contractors in 43 states, and the government. Those years, I assure you, were sometimes very eventful for all of us who believed -who knew – that the Army had to have a new troop transport helicopter which could survive on the battlefield of today and tomorrow. I said we are fulfilling a pledge to “D” Company. We are doing so despite the crash of a prototype in May 1978. That the program despite an initial two-month delay, is now just one month off its original schedule. This is a tribute to everyone involved in its development and production.
A firm and steady hand
In particular, I would like to acknowledge the very firm and steady hand which guided the Black Hawk program through this period – *COL Richard Kenyon, who, as I said, with the initial Black Hawk fielding almost completed, leaves the program. Because of his outstanding accomplishments, COL Kenyon was awarded the 1978 Secretary of the Army’s Award for Project Management. He leaves the program in good shape and for once, we are making the transition of PM’s at a rational point – when the system is making its own transition from development to production and support.
Unquestionably, Black Hawk is a major improvement over the 20 year faithful workhorse of the Army, the UH-1. Black Hawk is our first true squad carrying helicopter with greatly improved survivability, reliability, and maintainability. (Just how greatly improved will be something for “D” Company to demonstrate.) It is not too much to say that Black Hawk is the first Army aircraft designed, developed, and produced specifically with the soldier in mind, from the combat squad members to the mechanics who will appreciate the modular concept used for the T700 engine and other aircraft parts. I might add that this aircraft is so highly regarded that, in addition to its primary role as a troop carrier, it is also being considered as the basic airframe for both Army and Navy electronics equipment.
Most of you know that Black Hawk is already being used at Fort Rucker for training, and I’m happy to say that we’ve had “good vibes” from there. The pilots have been elated by its performance and handling qualities, and I am confident that your experience with Black Hawk will be the same.
“D” Company is, I am sure, proud to be the first operational unit to receive, maintain, and operate the Black Hawk. From a review of its history, I doubt that the Army could have found a better unit to which to entrust this new aerial combatant. “D” Company’s record in war – 2 Presidential Unit Citations, 2 Valorous Unit Awards, 9 Vietnam campaigns – and in peach – on training exercises and in civilian relief – bespeaks the courage, dedication, and unselfishness which have always marked the American soldier.
As I looked, upon our arrival, from the men and women of “D” Company, 158th Aviation Battalion, to this helicopter, I was struck anew by the fortuitous circumstances which unite Black Hawk and the “Ghost Riders” for I understand that the latter have chosen as their unofficial song a ballad of many years ago entitled “Ghost Riders In The Sky.”
The pursuit of lasting peace
Like the Ghost Riders of the song, “D” Company’s modern Ghost Riders, mounted on the Black Hawk, are also engaged, with the rest of this proud Division and all of our forces, on what must seem at times an equally endless chase – the pursuit of lasting peace in our world. Their mission – our mission – is, by being ready, to protect that peace by deterring war; but if that proves impossible, to fight to defend and protect our national interests – and to win.
Let me, in that spirit, close by repeating for the benefit of “D” Company and all those who will use this fine aircraft what Carl Thorpe, son of the great Jim Thorpe and member of the Sauk Indian tribe from which sprang the great Indian Chief whose name this helicopter bears, said of Black Hawk twenty-one months ago when it was christened:
To this bird we say –
“Go to the skies, To the clouds, and
Challenge the thunder.
Bring upon your strong wings
The peace of Black Hawk.”
I would only add that, God willing, we trust that peace – and not war – will indeed be the Ghost Riders and Black Hawk’s destiny.