Looking Back, March 2024
By Mark Albertson
On June 4, 1920, the National Defense Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. The Act saw fit to organize the United States Army as an aggregate of three subdivisions: The Regular Army, National Guard and the organized reserves of civilians or Officers’ and Enlisted Reserve Corps. The Regular Army was to have a manpower strength of 17,726 officers and 280,000 enlisted. Of course, this was dependent upon Congress and whether it appropriated enough money for a ground force of even this size. And this is precisely what the august body did not do, as pointed out by Rebecca Robin Raines in her study of the Signal Corps, Getting the Message Through:
“Despite a booming economy, the Army did not prosper during the ‘Roaring Twenties.’ Budget-minded Congresses limited the Regular Army to 12,000 commissioned officers and 125,000 enlisted men, only slightly more than had been in uniform when the United States entered World War I. Eventually Congress reduced enlisted strength to 118,000, where it remained until the late 1930s. Army appropriations, meanwhile, stabilized at around $300 million, about half the projected cost of the defense act if fully implemented. The Army remained composed of skeleton organizations with most of its divisions little more than ‘paper tigers.’”
The General Staff lost much of its authority to the Bureau Chiefs again. “Specifically, the General Staff was to prepare plans for mobilization and war, ‘to investigate and report on the efficiency and preparedness of the Army,’ and to ‘render professional aid and assistance to the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War.’ It was not to assume or engage in of an administrative nature that pertains to the established bureaus of offices of the War Department which might imperil [their] responsibility or initiative, impair their efficiency, or unnecessarily duplicate their work.”
General of the Army, John J. Pershing. As Chief of Staff, he felt frustrated that his authority was blunted by the Bureau Chiefs, stifling innovation in the U.S. Army following World War I.
The Chief of Staff was not merely demoted in stature, he shared power with the Bureau Chiefs who exercised prerogatives with regards to departmental budgets, and who could and did run to Congress when their turf was “threatened.” General Pershing, who was Chief of Staff following World War I and who was used to wielding his authority as an overall commander, felt frustrated at having his authority compromised by the Bureau Chiefs.
The National Defense Act saw the Chemical Warfare Service added to the masthead of Army branches. This was a reflection of the importance chemical weapons came to enjoy during the Great War. Ditto the Air Service, which became an Army branch with a manpower strength slated for 1,514 officers and 16,000 enlisted. In fact, the growing importance of airpower can be seen in 1926 with the advent of the U.S. Army Air Corps. However a lack of understanding of the importance of Combined Arms Warfare became clearly evident with the demise of the Tank Corps.
Dwight Eisenhower, future Commander-in-Chief of Allied armies in Europe, was threatened with court-martial for his written and verbal support of a greater use of the tank in 1920.
The fledgling Tank Corps was the result of the promise offered by the tank as a medium of mobile warfare. But with the National Defense Act of 1920, the Tank Corps was consigned to the Infantry. This retarded the potential of the tank as a viable component of an American Combined Arms Team. Much of the postwar outlook on armor in the United States was based on experience garnered from the battlefields in France. The U.S. Army, like the French Army, came to view the tank as an infantry support weapon. This line of thinking was based upon the unreliable pot-bellied stoves which literally crawled across the churned up French landscape. Battlefields pockmarked with thousands of water-filled shell craters which, at times, were traversed more quickly by the infantry than the tanks which had been sent to support the advance. Indeed, American thinking was so parochial, that Dwight Eisenhower, in 1920, “was rebuked by the U.S. Army’s Chief of Infantry after having advocated a stronger tank force for infantry divisions and then was threatened with a court-martial if he continued publishing in that vein.”
The Germans, having lost the war as well as being on the receiving end of a weapon that helped to breach their defenses, came to a different conclusion. Officers such as Ernst Volkheim, Oswald Lutz and Alfred von Vollard-Bockelberg gave serious thought to the possibilities of the tank as a spearhead in a new form of mobile warfare that was to become known as Blitzkrieg. Aircraft, artillery and infantry would blast a hole in the enemy’s front. The breach would be exploited by the swift-moving panzer columns, taking the war to the enemy’s rear. This new mailed fist would not be equipped with the battlefield plodders of the previous conflict; rather, speedy, radio-equipped armored fighting vehicles able to attain speeds of 25 to 30 mph. This meant supporting infantry had to be motorized to keep pace with the advance. And the armored spearheads would enjoy Close Air Support provided by Goering’s Luftwaffe.
Some Soviet theorists drew lessons not to unlike those of the Germans. Lessons they would share with their former enemy as a result of the 1922 Treaty of Rapallo. Soviet Deep Operations called for deep thrusts into the enemy’s front. And the Soviets would eventually latch on to the tank as the vehicle for advance. One of those who championed mechanization was Mikhail Tuchachevsky, veteran of World War I, the Civil War and later marshal in the Red Army. But just how advanced Soviet thinking was in comparison to America can be seen in their view of the tank.
According to Eddie Rickenbacker, the Shturmovik was the best ground support/tank busting aircraft of World War II. Owing to the prominence of strategic aviation in the U.S. Army Air Corps/Army Air Forces, such a plane of similar effort would not be entertained. The Il-2 went on to become the most produced combat aircraft in history at 36,183 copies.
During the later 1920s and early 1930s, American designer J. Walter Christie was designing light and medium armored fighting vehicles which were miles ahead of the battlefield plodders of the Great War. The War Department evinced little interest, unlike the Soviets. The Russians bought copies of Christie’s designs and during the 1930s, produced a string of models that would eventually evolve into the superlative T-34. This medium tank was without a doubt the best armored fighting vehicle produced on the Allied side during World War II. And when mated with the IL-2 Shturmovik—arguably the best ground support plane of the Second World War—gave the Soviets a formidable battlefield punch.
The American lack of foresight in tank design, coupled with the lack of appreciation offered by the potential of armor, was unveiled for all to see with the new reality of mobile warfare on September 1, 1939. The Wehrmacht’s crushing of western Poland was a wake up call; a view of the new reality of modern war that was bolstered by the fall of France in June 1940. The latter is of particular importance because the U.S. Army came to view the tank just like the French Army, as an infantry support weapon. And despite the fact that tanks like the French Char B could take more punishment and dish it out in comparison to German types, the vaunted French Army went down in decisive defeat. And this despite the fact the Germans operated at a deficit of some 900 tanks versus the Allies, they massed their armor at those points chosen for their armored spearheads. This local superiority backed by Close Air Support aviation burst out if its tactical confines to produce a strategic victory . . . the humbling of France and the Low Countries. And to add insult to injury, the British Army had been kicked off the Continent barely a month after the start of the campaign. A vindication, to be sure, of an earlier prognostication by Hitler. “The next war would not be fought like the last war.” In this the Fuhrer was proved correct; for unlike the French, Hitler was fighting to the timetable of 1940 not 1914.
Hitler’s lightning victories in 1939 and 1940 were a vindication of Billy Mitchell’s ideas of air supremacy. Luftwaffe fighters swept the skies of enemy pursuits while bombers and ground support squadrons worked over enemy airfields, supply columns, troop concentrations, rail lines and rolling stock. Ju-87 (Stuka) dive-bombers and German artillery worked to blast the way open for the swift-moving panzer columns. Airpower, infantry, armor and artillery working together to produce victory. In other words, modern Combined Arms Warfare.
* * * * *
With the Air Corps Act of 1926, the Air Service attained a level of enfranchisement not previously enjoyed. For the evolution towards an independent air force can be seen with the progression of Army airpower since it early days:
Free of its second-fiddle status within the Signal Corps, through its sojourn as the Air Service, the name Air Corps came to denote the next step towards autonomy. And it is important not to lose sight of this concept. For Army airpower had come from being an insignificant afterthought—featuring Ben Foulois holding the fort as the Army’s sole pilot flying the Army’s only aircraft in 1910—to an air contingent that was to have representation on the General Staff and see to the reappointment of an Assistant Secretary of War for Air, such as there had been during the World War. In addition, the Air Corps Act called for Congress to fund an air fleet of 1,800 aircraft within five years. Indeed, since 1910, Army airpower had come a long way by 1926.
America’s aviators enjoyed a decisive advantage in their quest for autonomy: Military aviation came to be considered state-of-the-art technology. And what the battleship did for the Navy aircraft will do for the Army Air Corps. And the expression emblematic for the idea of an independent air force was the strategic bomber.
The round-the-world cruise of the Great White Fleet, 1907-1909, was seen to have justified the monies spent on the battle fleet. The success of this demonstration of American sea power helped to sell the Navy to the public and cemented its image as America’s first line of defense. And the cornerstone of the sales pitch was the battleship. The battleship was the crowning achievement in weaponry of the Industrial Revolution up to that time; affixing the image in the collective mind of a floating steel fortress able to hurl tons of ordnance out to as far as the eye could see. Cutting-edge technology indicative of the Nation’s quest to see its burgeoning economic and military power able to forge its rightful place on the world stage.
Aircraft came to be viewed in a like manner. Airmen in bombers winging their way unassailably to rain down death and destruction upon an enemy’s potential to wage war was considered top-shelf technology. Airpower, like naval power, came to be seen as a way of keeping enemy forces distant. Indeed some of the champions of strategic airpower saw the Air Corps as a challenger for the mantle held by the Navy, that of the Nation’s first line of defense.
Conversely the Ground Forces enjoyed no such esteem. Edgar Raines, in his Eyes of Artillery, sums up the plight of the Ground Forces pretty well: “During the years between the wars, responsibility for the organization, doctrine and training of combat arms rested in the first instance with their respective branch chiefs. They achieved their goals in these areas in part by shepherding funding requests for their branches through the War Department, Bureau of the Budget and Congress. The equipment category of the War Department budget provides eloquent testimony to the Air Corps’ favored status. In 1931, one of the few years for which detailed figures survive, the Air Corps received $35,823,473. By way of contrast the Infantry received $65,623, the Field Artillery $20,610 and the Cavalry $26,685. This was not autonomy—the Air Corps’ portion of the budget was still subject to General Staff control—but its size in comparison to the other branches did represent a substantial measure of power within the narrow confines of the War Department.
The new Air Corps was to have 1,514 officers—spanning the ranks from lieutenant to colonel—and 16,000 enlisted. The aforementioned Assistant Secretary of War for Air was resuscitated to represent Army airpower needs. The Air Corps Act established a commander known as the Chief of the Air Corps, with the rank of major general. He would have three brigadiers as assistants, two of which were flying officers. The budget was to be controlled by the Office of the Secretary of War.
Unlike Eisenhower, ardent proponent of an independent air force, Billy Mitchell, will be court-martialed in 1925. He will incur another setback in 1933, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt will not choose Mitchell as Secretary of War for Air.
As might be expected, the Air Corps Act did not go far enough to appease some of the ardent practitioners of airpower. One such was Billy Mitchell, by then a civilian. He “intimated that in some nations, ‘air, land and water are under separate ministries,’” Obviously the Air Corps Act did not go far enough for the champion of airpower. Unlike General Mason Patrick, who observed it was “a long step in the right direction.”
There is an old saying, “What‘s in a name?” Well with regards to this discussion, everything. As mentioned in the preceding pages, the name Air Corps itself denoted a certain air of independence. The march towards an independent air force during the 1930s should have been obvious. For Mitchell’s idea of an air force was to take the fight to the enemy . . . offense. This meant going beyond the battlefront to take the fight to the enemy’s territory . . . to his homeland itself. To strike at his means for waging war. To paralyze and even destroy his ability to not only produce the implements of war, but to transport them as well. This was the essence of strategic airpower. And the emphasis on strategic airpower would increase exponentially by the beginning of America’s entry into the Second World War.
Interest in strategic bombing caused a corresponding shift in Close Support-type aircraft. Single-engine types gave way to twin-engine light and medium bomber aircraft, such as the Douglas A-20. The affect of the Spanish Civil War cannot be understated here. For this tune up to the main event in 1939 instilled the belief that CAS should target airfields and anti-aircraft artillery to support strategic bombing in lieu of supporting infantry and artillery. This rationale certainly retarded the Air Corps’ development of CAS. For the United States Army Air Corps/Army Air Forces will never field a ground support/tank busting aircraft of a similar effort to the Soviet IL-2 Shturmovik. Question here is, where did that leave the foot slogger and breech loader?
Well on the heels of the first chapter of the Great War, the performance of the Field Artillery was reviewed. Major General William J. Snow, Chief of the Field Artillery (1918-1927), convened three boards: The Westervelt Board, so-named for Brigadier General William I. Westervelt, chair of the board which reviewed gun types and calibers, ammunition and transport of the Field Artillery. For the short duration America was engaged in the conflict, Yankee artillerymen relied heavily on field pieces largely of French manufacture. This was not to be in the second chapter of the Great War. For most of the recommendations on gun types and calibers put forth by the Westervelt Board were adopted by the Army.
A second board, too, chaired by Brigadier General Westervelt was the Trench Artillery Board. Like the previous effort, this commission was put together to study the affects of mortars in the Great War and to offer recommendations for the future. Among the findings was that there must be a greater reliance on light and medium calibers of mortars. Another was that the Army should make use of tubes of 160 mm and 240 mm in support of the Field Artillery; and there should be an independent Trench Artillery Branch in the Army. However in an era of military downsizing and too few dollars, little if anything was done to act upon the recommendations of the Trench Artillery Board.
Forerunner of those such as William Wallace Ford. As chair of the 1919 Hero Board, General Hero urged that organic aerial observation assets be applied to Field Artillery units.
The last of the trio of panels was the Hero Board, so-named for its chairman, Brigadier General Andrew Hero, Jr. This commission shared some of the same concerns as those of the Westervelt Board such as gun types and calibers, training, ammunition, supply, communications and transport. But this board also brought out the necessity of aerial artillery spotters of the organic variety.
Organic aerial artillery spotters would solve the problem inherent with the observers of 1917-1918. Here aerial observers and pilots were spotting for the field artillery as well as being assigned to other duties; hence the lack of continuity which affected their performance as spotters. Instead of rotated personnel, organic aerial artillery spotters would perform no other function but that of adjusting artillery fire. Here, it is plain to see, that a recognition of the evolution of the specialization of tasks in modern, industrialized war is taking place.
In addition, the Hero Board went a step further by recommending that artillery commanders should maintain control over their observation assets. That each division should have an observation squadron attached to it. Aerial artillery spotters should come from the ranks of the Field Artillery; same with pilots, who would train with the units to which they were to be attached. Note, though, the configuration of the Board’s recommendations: The committee’s suggestion was that the Air Observation Posts of the Field Artillery would remain two-man affairs. The Hero Board still saw things based on experience from the Great War. Understandable when one considers that the staffers of the Board were products of the era. But the fact remains that the spotter planes would be flown by two-man crews.
Undoubtedly many of the Hero Board’s recommendations were a decided step forward in the evolution of that process that would produce William Wallace Ford’s Air Observation Post, and to which Army Aviation would be the eventual result. But it also sowed the seeds for that contention between the breech loaders and airmen for control of the Air Observation Post with America’s entry into war, 1941. A political contest over roles and missions between the Army and the Air Force that would last for decades to come. . .
 See page 218, Chapter 6, “Between the Wars,” Getting the Message Through: A Branch History of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, by Rebecca Robin Raines. Also see page 408, Chapter 19, “Between the World Wars,” American Military History, by Maurice Matloff.
 See page 16, Chapter 11, “Prewar Settlement and Its Effect on the Army,” U.S. Army in World War II, The War Department, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans & Preparations, by Mark Skinner Watson. Watson basically agrees with Raines. In 1923, the U.S. Army totaled 131,959 men. For virtually all of the interwar period, American manpower strength in the Army never approached the 297,726 men specified (17,726 officers and 280,000) enlisted. In 1940, U.S. Army strength was at 267,767. It jumped in 1941 to 1,460,998 with the growing threat of war.
 See pages 50 and 51, Chapter 1, Special Studies: From Root to McNamara, Army Organization and Administration, by James E. Hewes, Jr.
 See page 409, Chapter 19, “Between the World Wars,” American Military History, by Maurice Matloff.
 In an effort to defend the tank’s value by expounding on its wartime use, George Patton published an article in the Infantry Journal, May 1920. In pleading the Tank Arm’s cause, he showcased the tank as supporting infantry in overcoming or circumventing the stalemate of trench warfare. He did not, however, elaborate on the tank as the vehicle of battlefield mobility as it would come to be used in World War II. This was hardly an appreciation of the view held by J.F.C. Fuller of Britain. His “Plan 1919” saw masses of armor striking deep into the enemy’s rear as a way of sowing mobility on the battlefield.
 See page 141, Chapter Six,” The Development of German Armor Doctrine,” The Roots of Blitzkrieg, by James S. Corum.
 Famed American World War I ace, Eddie Rickenbacker, observed the Shturmovik and stated, “that it was the best aircraft of its type in the world.” Stalin chimed in with, “Our Army needs the IL-2 as much as it needs bread, as much as it needs the air it breathes.” See pages 12 and 13, The Ilyushin IL-2, by Witold Liss, Profile Aircraft No. 88, Profile Books Limited, UK, March 1982.
 Refer to They’ll Have to Follow You! The Triumph of the Great White Fleet, by Mark Albertson.
 The Army’s image was negatively impacted during the summer of 1932, with the suppression of the “Bonus Marchers.” See pages 412 and 413, Chapter 19, “Between World Wars,” American Military History, edited by Maurice Matloff. “The most notable domestic use of Regular troops in the twenty years of peace happened in the nation’s capital in the summer of 1932. Some thousands of ‘Bonus Marchers’ remained in Washington after the adjournment of Congress dashed their hopes for immediate payment of a bonus for military service in World War I. On July 28, when marshals and police tried to evict one group encamped near the Capital, a riot with some bloodshed occurred. Thereupon President Herbert C. Hoover called upon the Army to intervene. A force of about 600—cavalrymen and infantrymen with a few tanks—advanced to the scene under the leadership of Chief of Staff MacArthur in person, two other generals, and, among junior officers, two whose names would in due course become much more familiar, Majors Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, Jr. The troops cleaned up the situation near the Capital without firing a shot, and then proceeded with equal efficiency to clear out all of the marchers from the District of Columbia. From a military point of view the Army had performed an unpleasant task in exemplary fashion, and with a few minor injuries to participants; but the use of military force against civilians, most of them veterans, tarnished the Army’s public image and helped to defeat the administration in the forthcoming election.”
 See page 15, “Prologue,” Eyes of Artillery: Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, by Edgar F. Raines.
However the reader is cautioned not to construe the situation in the early 1930s as a one-way street for the Air Corps. Despite the budget numbers reported by Raines, the Air Corps did not yet have the bombers to wage a strategic campaign. Far from it. But even more important, the examples of Mussolini’s air force in Abyssinnia, the Japanese in China, German and Italian bombers in Spain were as yet to occur. Such events in a few years would bolster the arguments posed by the practitioners of bombing; that is, carrying war to the enemy’s homeland.
 The position of Assistant Secretary of War for Air did not give the new Air Corps the hoped for latitude within the War Department. For as explained on page 79, Chapter III, “Creation of the Army Air Corps,” Organization of Military Aeronautics, Army Air Forces Historical Studies No. 25, “The Air Corps was to be under the immediate supervision of the Secretary of War in spite of the fact that the air faction had repeatedly requested administrative freedom from War Department dictation. True, an additional Assistant Secretary of War to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, was provided for in the bill; the implication was that he, instead of the Secretary of War, should have the direction of the new corps, but since his duties were not specifically outlined, his power was necessarily restricted to that which might be delegated to him by his superior. The budget also was to be managed entirely from the office of the Secretary of War.”
 Billy Mitchell resigned from the Army on January 27, 1926, following his court martial on December 17, 1925. However a potential for righting this blow against Mitchell has been put forth by Roger Burlingame with reference to Mitchell entering government as a representative of airpower:
“In 1932 he had high hopes of a position in which he could work actively for airpower in the government. As a result of his repeated testimony certain concessions had been made. The Air Service had been made the Army Air Corps and given more autonomy, or changes to operate on its own. It had been permitted high-ranking officers—even generals such as the enthusiastic air-minded Frank Maxwell Andrews. But most important to Mitchell, a new office had been created in the War Department called Secretary of Air. When the overthrow of the Republicans came in November, Mitchell believed that he would be given the job. He was, after all, a Democrat by inheritance and faith; he had not fared well in Republican hands.
“Naturally [he wrote his friend General Fechet] I will have something to say in the councils of the Democratic Party. As soon as Franklin Roosevelt is relieved from his job as Governor of New York, I am going to take up the whole matter of national defense with him. . . I have plans already worked out for these things and when they are made public, they will certainly make some people jump.
“What followed was perhaps the greatest disappointment of Mitchell’s life. Everywhere during 1933, the rumor ran that the post of Assistant Secretary of Air would surely be given him as compensation for what he had suffered and to bring about real reform in air defense.
“If the job is offered you [wrote his old flying friend] for God’s sake accept it and take out the Air Corps . . . and Civil Aviation that our broken bodies has made possible out of the hands of politicians. . . .
“When the new President came into the White House, the Mitchells were invited to lunch. Mitchell went by himself for several interviews. Mr. Roosevelt was always cordial. Mitchell’s visits were reported to the press. It was repeatedly stated that the job was practically in his pocket. Influential members of Congress and advisors to the President recommended his appointment. Yet it was never made.
“Several theories about it have been advanced. It is said that Roosevelt was so strongly under the influence of the Navy that he could never bring himself to favor Mitchell. Plausible explanation perhaps; yet, the President proved air-minded in the end: for 1941 and 1942 the sky became black with planes under his urging; he advocated unity of command in the field and independent strategic air missions in World War II. But in 1933 he was still in love with ships. His desk and the walls of his White House office were covered with pictures and models of them; there were no airplanes there in 1933.” See pages 137 and 138, Chapter 15, “Vision of the World,” General Billy Mitchell, by Roger Burlingame.
Going beyond Burlingame’s analysis, one is certainly left with the possibility here, that FDR understood his predicament. The Army and Navy were institutions, reactionary institutions; institutions whose importance had been inflated by the World War. By 1933, Hitler had attained power in a resurging Germany. The Japanese had invaded Manchuria two years before. Mussolini and his Fascists had taken control of Italy. Stalin was taking the Soviet Union through the hellish episode of Collectivization and Forced Industrialization.
At this early period in his presidency, FDR needed the support of the Army and Navy. So FDR was not going to put into government a strong-willed individual ready to ostracize such pillars of power and perhaps publicly flaunt their shortcomings. Such transgressions were not to be rewarded with a seat at the table of power.
 See page 60, Autonomy of the Air Arm, by R. Earl McClendon.
Albertson, Mark, They’ll Have to Follow You! The Triumph of the Great White Fleet, Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, Mustang, Oklahoma, 2007.
Army Air Forces Historical Studies: No. 25, Organization of Military Aeronautics, 1907-1935, Prepared by the Assistant Chief of Air Staff Intelligence, Historical Division, Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, Report Date, December 1944.
Burlingame, Roger, General Billy Mitchell, Champion of Air Defense, Signet Press, 1956.
Corum, James S., The Roots of Blitzkrieg: Hans von Seeckt and German Military Reform, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 1992.
Hewes, James, E., Jr., Special Studies: From Root to McNamara, Army Organization and Administration, CMH Pub 40-1, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1975.
Kirkpatrick, Charles E., Writing the Victory Plan of 1941: An Unknown Future and a Doubtful Present, World War II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, CMH Pub 93-10, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1992.
Liss, Witold, The Ilyushin IL-2, Aircraft Profile No. 88, Profile Books Limited, Berkshire, England, March 1982.
Matloff, Maurice, General Editor, American Military History, Army Historical Series, Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1969.
Messenger, Charles, The Blitzkrieg Story, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1976.
Miller, Donald L., Masters of the Air, Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York, NY., 2006.
Munson, Kenneth, Aircraft of World War II, Doubleday and Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1968.
Raines, Edgar F., Jr., Eyes of Artillery: The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, Army Historical Series, CMH Pub 70-31-1, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 2000.
Watson, Mark Skinner, The War Department, Chief of Staff: Prewar Plans and Preparations, CMH Pub 1-1, U.S. Army in World War II, Center of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1991. First published in 1950.
Your AAAA leadership has just returned from the Aviation Senior Leaders’ Forum at Fort Novosel, AL, held January 22-25, 2024. What an extraordinary forum hosted by our Branch Chief, MG Mac McCurry, and his Branch Team, with the theme of “Transforming Aviation Warfighting – Strengthening the Sacred Trust.”
From the opening “Gathering of Leaders” reception at the Army Aviation Museum, to the classified and unclassified briefings covering the status of Army Aviation and our Army, to the Aviation Awards Dinner that recognized both AAAA Functional Awards winners and the LTG Ellis D. Parker Aviation Unit Award winners, it was simply world-class event.
First, the AAAA Functional Awards and LTG Parker Unit Awards. I know I speak for many when I convey how gratifying and inspiring it is to be among our Army Aviation family awardees, and witness just how exceptional and special they are. Awards were presented for the Aviation Trainer of the year, as well as Air Traffic Services/Control awards in the categories of Technician, Controller, Manager, Facility, and Unit, and in the areas of Aviation Medicine, DUSTOFF Flight Medic, and Air Sea Rescue.. A personal thanks to all the awardee’s organizational leadership for taking the time to recognize the achievements, and to our stalwart industry partners that sponsor the awards, ultimately enabling AAAA to realize its Recognition pillar!
Second, the Army Aviation Senior Leaders Forum. Again, a superbly executed event that provided a tremendous opportunity for the total Army Aviation component leadership to gather for professional development, fellowship, and current Aviation Branch and Army MACOM program updates. The agenda included presentations and insights from our Army Chief of Staff, GEN Randy George; the Chief, National Guard Bureau, our own GEN Dan Hokanson; the Commanding General, Army Training and Doctrine Command; GEN Gary Brito; the Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces Command, LTG Calvert; the XVIII Airborne Corps Commanding General, LTG CD Donahue; the Commanding General, US Army North and 5th Army, our own LTG John Evans; the DCG, Futures, Army Futures Command, LTG Hodne; and the Commanding General, 2nd Infantry Division, our own MG Hank Taylor. Suffice it to say, it was incredible to hear from these exceptional leaders, and their perspectives and insights into the status of the Army, their own organizations, and for their support of vital Army Aviation priorities and initiatives.
MG McCurry, with the support of his Fort Novosel leadership (the Chief Warrant Officer of the Branch, CW5 Mike Corsaro, the Branch Command Sergeant Major, CSM Coley, the Directorate of Training and Doctrine, the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization) provided a comprehensive review of the state of our Branch from a DOTMLPF-P perspective. Additionally, the other ‘Six Pack Plus One’ leadership (MG Tom O’Connor, Commanding General AMCOM; MG Wally Rugen, Director, DAMO-AV, Army G-3; BG Dave Phillips, PEO, Aviation; BG Cain Baker, Director, FVL Cross Functional Team; and BG Scott Wilkinson, Commanding General, Army Special Operations Aviation Command) provided detailed organizational and operational overviews of their major programs, priorities, and challenges. Throughout all, it was clear the entire Aviation leadership enterprise is laser-focused on ensuring the warfighting training, readiness, sustainment, and modernization of our force, ensuring the sacred trust with our Soldiers on the ground is unbreakable.
Soon, our entire Aviation community including Active and Reserve Component soldiers, our invaluable industry partners, and retired and veteran soldiers, will gather in Denver for the AAAA Annual Summit. As always, it is an unprecedented opportunity to realize our AAAA Pillars in support of our Aviation soldiers and their families – Voice, Network, Recognition, and Support. I encourage all our members who are now out of uniform, to capitalize on this timeframe to strongly advocate for what our Aviation Branch and the soldiers that comprise it truly require in terms of personnel, training and readiness, and equipment, and to educate everyone on the incredibly important and essential capabilities that Army Aviation contribute to our Army and Nation’s strength and purpose.
Above The Best!
MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
The Annual Summit in Denver will be barely 90 days away by the time you read this. Incredible! We hope that everyone
had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s holiday; really looking forward to the year ahead and the great work that your
Association will do in support of our Aviation family.
Bill Harris and I had the privilege of travelling to Lubbock, Texas after Thanksgiving to join the leadership of the Vietnam
Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) Legacy Committee to see how our Association might best support them in the future,
as it plans its inevitable ‘sunset.’ Art Jacobs and Don LeMaster are the leads for the VHPA; Bill and I were totally impressed
with their vision for the future of VHPA. Importantly, they are completing their Strategic Plan that will inform the execution of
the myriad tasks and actions that the transition will require, ranging from event planning to publication and membership
servicing. Art and Don have also established a strong relationship/partnership with the Vietnam Center and Archive (VNCA),
located on the Lubbock campus of Texas Tech University. We honestly had no idea how extensive the VNCA collection is
and how deep the expertise is that resides there. The VHPA will be leaving all their records and documents to the VNCA and
have already been coordinating with the VNCA for some years. Their decision to get into a relationship with VNCA to
maintain their legacy records could not have been more well placed. Check out the VNCA website at
www.vietnamwarlegacy.ttu.edu for a quick overview of the breadth of their capabilities and plans for the future.
AAAA has also been a beneficiary of the VHPA’s support and generosity. The VHPA was the very first “Heritage
Matching Fund” scholarship established by the AAAA Scholarship Foundation Inc., in 2002 with a donation of $10,000.
Since that time, the VHPA has donated almost $500,000, which this year supported 18 scholarship awards to deserving
students in our merit-based program. We at AAAA look forward to continuing to develop our relationship with the VHPA to
best support them into the future ensuring that their story and legacy is never forgotten. I conveyed to them on behalf of
our 19,600 members, that AAAA will do whatever it can to carry on the traditions, memory, and spirit that the first “Sky
Soldiers” pioneered during their Vietnam War service. We owe them nothing less.
On December 6th, we concluded our 18th Luther G. Jones Army Aviation Depot Forum. This year’s theme was Corpus
Christi Army Depot – Integral to Aviation Readiness Today and Into the Future. Our thanks to COL Kyle Hogan, SGM Jon
Trawick and the CCAD team for their exceptional support and sponsorship of this ‘small, but mighty’ impactful forum. Also, to
MG Tom O’Connor, Commanding General, AMCOM, CW5 Pat O’Neil, our Aviation Branch Maintenance Officer, and CSM
Bradford Smith, AMCOM CSM, for their enduring support and presence during the entirety of the program – for sure, that
makes a difference for the attendees, industry partner exhibitors, and forum sponsors. CCAD is a national treasure and the
artisan workforce that comprises it is truly indicative of the strength of our Army and Nation.
As I mentioned at the start, we are rapidly closing on the Annual Summit. We will have updates in this space and
through emails regarding the Denver Gaylord Rockies itself, as well as the professional and social agendas as they
inevitably evolve over the next couple of months.
Please take note – the deadline for registration for all food events is April 4, 2024. You may continue to register after that
but there will be no tickets available for any of the food events such as the Hall of Fame and the Soldier Appreciation Dinner
concert. You are going to want to be at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – with inductees including two Medal of Honor
recipients and a certain former Army Chief of Staff. Added bonus – the entertainer for the Soldier Appreciation Dinner
Concert is Randy Houser… so, get your tickets now!
MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
Looking Back, February 2024
By Mark Albertson
By Thomas M. Salisbury, III
Edited by Mark Albertson
[Thomas M. Salisbury, III, an Intelligence Analyst with the Red Team, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, HQDA, attended the Virginia Military Institute and served in the U.S. Army Security Agency from 1966 to 1970.]
* Army Aviation, pages 49-52, Vol. 29, No. 11, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., November 30, 1980.
* * * * *
Soviet military journals categorize the primary threat to parachute and heliborne assault forces on landing to be an immediate attack by armored units or attack helicopters.
Since the adoption of the forward defense strategy by the U.S. Army in Central Europe, the attack helicopter unit’s quick reaction time, mobility, firepower, and availability to the commander make it the most likely asset for immediate response to Soviet airborne battalion or regimental parachute landings in the corps rear area. Therefore, the air defense tactics and weapons of Soviet airborne units warrant the attention of both air cavalry scouts and our attack helicopter crews.
Recent major Soviet exercises such as BEREZINZA, held in the Belorussian military district in 1978, and NEMAN, held in the Baltic military district in 1979, indicate an intent to use airborne battalions and regiments, equipped with the BMD airborne combat vehicle, to carry out parachute assault landings within the tactical zone of defense.
These assaults would probably occur beyond the 50 kilometers from the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) advocated by the Soviets for heliborne landings of motorized rifle units but considerably short of the 300 kilometer depth advocated for division size operational landings.
A Soviet landing force does not normally drop and hold an objective in static defense until link-up; rather it conducts an offensive battle of maneuver in the rear area.
In addition to initial objectives, the Soviet landing force may raid targets of opportunity (usually nuclear missile, command and control, or air defense related targets) along the route of maneuver to a final objective or area many kilometers from the original landing area. The direction of maneuver in the enemy rear area is usually oriented towards friendly ground formations carrying out the offensive in the enemy main battle area.
A Soviet airborne battalion has one man-portable SA-7 surface-to-air missile (SAM) squad, probably three launchers, organic to each airborne company for a total of nine SA-7 launchers in each battalion. Thus, a minimum of 27 SA-7 launchers would be organic to a Soviet airborne regiment. In addition to other organic light automatic weapons, each BMD is capable of providing short range air defense fire from a turret mounted 7.62 mm machine gun.
ZU-23-2 23 mm Mount
One air defense battery of six towed ZU-23-2 twin-barreled 23 mm anti-aircraft guns (each weapon providing a combined rate of fire of 2,000 rounds per minute) is organic to the Soviet airborne regiment. Altogether, a Soviet airborne defense is credited with 200 SA-7 and 36 ZU-23-2 air defense systems in its table of organizations.
Although this low-level air defense umbrella only provides effective coverage out to about 3,000 meters, or a maximum of 7,000 meters, air defense weapons not organic to airborne divisions have at times been associated with Soviet airborne troops.
For example, SA-4 GANEF SAM launchers with airborne markings were displayed offloading from AN-22 transports at the July 1967 air show in Moscow. Also, one Soviet airborne battalion as described as having been reinforced during a recent exercise with unidentified mobile SAM launchers (which could be interpreted to suggest a platoon of SA-9 GASKIN missiles).
Neither of the above systems is known nor likely to become organic to the Soviet airborne division. However, special tailoring of a combat force with attached weapons should never be ruled out. Soviet authors have consistently pointed out since the 1960s that airborne forces will be reinforced by air-landing whatever weapons, equipment, or non-airborne personnel are deemed necessary to carry out specific missions successfully.
Additional support is provided by frontal aviation fighters which escort the airborne transports to the landing area and may provide limited air cover during the course of rear area operations by the airborne unit. Advancing Soviet units that begin to close with the airborne troops also bring an increasing number of army and front level SAM’s into range to extend air defense coverage over the airborne unit prior to link-up.
During the maneuver in the rear area the Soviet airborne unit takes these basic air defense measures:
If a decision is made to move to cover when helicopters are engaged during the march, SA-7 gunners may dismount and cover their BMDs until the vehicles take position and their 7.62 mm fires to the engagement. During an attack, SA-7 gunners cover tactical command posts and the main enveloping platoons of the companies in the attack.
ZU-23-2 (23 mm) firing platoons have the mission of covering the main body of the airborne regiment during the march or in the attack. When the regiment is in march column the ZU-23-2 firing battery marches between the two battalions of the regimental main body.
During the attack, ZU-23-2 platoons deploy in positions to cover the main attack of the regiment or, more often, are attached to those battalions attacking separate objectives that are of the most importance to the regiment’s mission.
The 3,000 meter effective range of the airborne battalion or regiment’s air defense barely reaches maximum standoff ranges of current U.S. Army attack helicopters, yet some tactical methods and other factors increase the lethality of this short range Soviet air defense.
In Central Europe masking terrain not only shields the approach of attack helicopters—it will also make engagement at maximum standoff range difficult.
Soviet parachute assault training, as described in their military journals, indicates that wartime jumps will be carried out mostly at night or in low ceiling/poor weather conditions. These factors, combined with the airborne unit’s ground mobility and its tactical intention to move and maneuver during most of the operation, make the early fixing, engagement at maximum range, and destruction or containment of the airborne force before it can accomplish its missions a difficult task.
Soviet airborne troops can be expected to employ some unconventional tactics to defeat attack helicopters. The Chief of Staff of Soviet Airborne Troops, General Lieutenant P. Pavlenko, recently stated that airborne units had experimented with using BMD 73 mm main guns and anti-tank guided missiles against helicopters. Although no details were given, such experimentation indicates the degree of attention being given to defending airborne troops from attack helicopters.
Although the main body of a Soviet airborne regiment or battalion will be a lucrative target for attack helicopters while in march column—caution should be exercised. While the scout may escape untouched by ground fires to report and guide in the attack helicopter flight, attack helicopters may be ambushed while approaching at nap-of-the-earth altitudes by undetected SA-7 and BMD 7.62 mm fires from security elements deployed well out from the main body.
Finally, unlike heliborne insertions of motorized rifle companies and battalions stripped of their usual air defense umbrella provided by regimental ZSU-23-4 and SA-9 systems, Soviet airborne operations in the rear area will be well covered by air defense systems.
These systems are a threat at the low altitudes and varying ranges at which attack helicopters would be forced to engage in Central Europe. Soviet airborne unit organization, air defense tactics, and training all reflect an awareness of U.S. Army attack helicopter tactics and the measures necessary to counter them.
|BMD Turret 7.62 mm MG
|Up to 1,000 meters
|Up to 3,000 meters
|SA-7 Man-portable SAM
|45 to 3,000 meters
|5 to 6,000 meters
|ZU-23-2 23 mm AA Gun
NOTE: Data is based on the USAITAC Report IAG-13-U-78, Soviet Army Operations, 1978; Understanding Soviet Military Developments, OACSI, 1977; Artillery of the World, C.F. Foss, 1974; FM 30-40, HQDA, 1975; and Soviet Tactical Air Defense, DDB-1140-6-80, Defense Intelligence Agency, 1980.
 Colonel I. Kabachevskiy, et al, “The Anti-Air Defense of Airborne Landings,” Voyennaya Mysl, USSR, No. 8, 1968, pages 42-49.
 Lieutenant Colonel I. Dynin, et al, “A Front Line Tradition,” Krylya Rodiny, Moscow, No. 10, 1979, pages 16-17, and “The Chords of Combat,” Sovietskaya Rossiya, Moscow, 11 February 1978, page 4.
 Soviet Army Operations, IAG-13-U-78, USAITAC, 1978, page 7.
 ibid, page 7.
 This emphasis on maneuver and raid by parachute units has intensified in Soviet open-source military journals since about 1974. Maneuver in the rear area instead of static defense has been part of Soviet airborne tactics for some time, but it is the BMD that makes this tactic a reality.
 Lieutenant Colonel V. Sinoshenko, “When a Landing is Attacked by Helicopters,” Voyenniy Vestnik, No. 10, 1978, pages 43-44.
 The Soviet Motorized Rifle Battalion, DDB-1100-197-78, DIA, 1978, page 31.
 USAITAC, op. cit., pages 2-18.
 Soviet Tactical Air Defense, DDB-1140-6-80, DIA, 1980, page 9.
 General-Lieutenant I.I. Lisov, Parachutists: Airborne Landing, (translation) USAFSTC, 1969, page 274.
 General-Lieutenant P. Chaplygin, et al, “If an Assault is Attacked by Helicopters,” Voyenniy Vestnik, No. 10, 1974, pages 51-54.
 Colonel Kabachevskiy, and Lieutenant Colonel Dynin, op. cit.
 Lieutenant Colonel Dynin, ibid.
 Colonel Kabachevskiy, op. cit.
 General-Lieutenant Chaplygin, op. cit.
 Lieutenant Colonel Sinoshenko, op. cit.
 Sr. Lt. O. Oleynik, “Behind Aggressor Lines,” Krasnaya Zveszda, 23 May 1979, page 1.
 Lieutenant Colonel Sinoshenko, op. cit.
 Colonel M. Muslimov, “A Battalion Captures a Mountain Pass at Night,” Voyennly Vestnik, No. 5, 1979, pages 39-43.
 General-Lieutenant P. Pavlenko, “The Great Patriotic War and Postwar Period,” Voyenno-Istoriccheskly Zhurnal, No. 1, 1980, page 9.
CONCORD, NH, UNITED STATES
Story by Staff Sgt. Courtney Rorick
114th Public Affairs Detachment
After receiving intel of a potential Iranian attack on Al Asad Air Base, in western Iraq, Capt. Brendan Meehan began calling units from the operations tent, warning them to seek shelter.
In the early morning hours of Jan 8, 2020, Iran sent a barrage of 22 missiles targeted at coalition headquarters in Al Asad and Erbil Air Base in northern Iraq, in response to the U.S. assassination of Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani.
A missile struck only 100-yards from Meehan’s location, causing a 500-yard shockwave and sending shrapnel and debris thousands of feet throughout the radius.
The blast threw him 15-feet.
“I was compressed into a spring, thrown, tumbled, then hit my back,” described Meehan. “I looked down and there was this big fire ball of smoke. Things were crackling and my first thought was that they blew up the ops tent.”
Meehan assessed his injuries, rolled over, and attempted to move.
“I couldn’t get up,” said Meehan. “I began crawling to the nearest bunker.”
Once he got inside, after a long pause, Meehan heard a faint “Sir, are you okay?”
After a little while longer, Meehan regained his bearing enough to navigate back and forth between two bunkers, located approximately 50-yards apart. Bouncing between the two, Meehan continued to check on troops inside.
He said an onslaught of multiple missiles ensued following the initial strike.
“The ground moved,” Meehan said. “It felt like tremors. I’ve never felt anything like it. They came down the runway, one by one.”
“I originally placed my team in a bunker located 10-feet from a hangar by the airfield,” said Meehan. “I ended up moving them because it was too far away from my location; I needed better command and control.”
The vacated bunker was later found filled and peppered by shrapnel.
His decision was live-saving. Meehan, a pilot with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment (MEDEVAC), New Hampshire Army National Guard, was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor for his steadfast thinking, helping to save the lives of nine Soldiers.
While no U.S. Troops were killed in the attack, Meehan said the base was destroyed. The unit lost aircraft, buildings, and various equipment, leaving them temporarily inoperable.
Three days following the attack, Meehan realized the true severity of his team’s injuries and called one of the flight doctors located nearby to assess.
Each soldier was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Although he didn’t feel well himself, Meehan focused on his team’s well-being. Meehan had to be ordered to seek medical care.
“He said, ‘When are you going to get seen? You’re not okay,’” described Meehan. “I wanted to set the example, so I got checked out. It was the right thing to do.”
It was only 10 minutes into the assessment when the doctor told Meehan he needed further evaluation.
“That’s when the symptoms really crashed in,” Meehan said. “It was debilitating; I felt like the world was spinning.”
“I couldn’t look at screens,” he added. “I had major headaches.”
Meehan recalled how he would have to lay on the floor just to be “okay.”
“My neck was so locked up at one point because my brain was trying to perceive the world correctly, which caused everything to seize up,” said Meehan.
While Meehan awaited his replacement, he continued to push through the injury placing the mission first and getting the MEDEVAC team operational.
On February 7, Meehan was evacuated to a military medical facility, in Landstuhl, Germany, for further assessment.
“Unfortunately, due to my condition, they determined I needed immediate relocation to Walter Reed (National Medical Center),” said Meehan, who arrived there on February 13.
During multiple evaluations, doctors told Meehan he would never fly again.
“I was told, ‘you know, you really should be looking for other jobs outside of aviation,’” said Meehan. “Or, ‘you should be on this medication so you can get better.’”
Meehan made the decision to refuse any medication treatment; he didn’t want his brain to develop a reliance on a prescription to function normally.
“This is my life,” said Meehan. “I felt like I was being told to recreate my sense of self, which is something I wasn’t willing to do until I exercised all other option.”
“This would have grounded me indefinitely and any hope of flying again would be in jeopardy,” said Meehan. “I wasn’t willing to give up that easily.”
On May 7, nearly four months after the attack, Meehan was awarded the Purple Heart, presented by Gen. James McConville, 40th Chief of Staff of the Army.
Amidst the recognition for his wounds, Meehan recognized within himself that his symptoms were worsening. He made the decision to seek alternative treatment plans and pursue other options.
“He always kind of down-played how serious everything was because he didn’t want anyone to feel bad,” said retired Sgt. First Class Rodney Anderson, an operations non-commissioned officer with 54th Troop Command at the time.
Anderson, who was also Meehan’s first platoon sergeant, was informed of the decision to leave the hospital and arrived at Walter Reed with fellow aviators to bring him back to the Granite State.
Upon arriving home to New Hampshire, Meehan began exploring other forms of care. After an exhaustive search, Dr. Victor Pedro, the chief innovation officer at the International Institute for the Brain in Manhattan, New York, accepted his case.
“I will never forget the day I met Brendan,” said Pedro as he recounted the moment during a phone interview. “I first met his dad.”
“His dad came in with him and I remember I was looking up at him,” said Pedro of the vast height difference between himself and Meehan’s father. “He put his hands on my shoulders and said ‘you’ve got to get my son better. You’ve got to get him flying again… please.’”
“As a dad, as a father of four, I just understood,” added Pedro, who choked up as he recalled the events.
When describing the most challenging part of the recovery process, Pedro said the impact from a traumatic brain injury can become more severe the longer it’s left untreated. Unfortunately, Meehan was a victim to the detriment of time.
“He couldn’t get the treatment he needed because everything was shut down,” recalled Pedro, describing the nation-wide health care stress on medical facilities due to COVID-19. “This let the situation set in. Whereas, ideally, you get them in right away.”
Although new obstacles continued to emerge, Meehan never lost focus on his goal to once again fly.
“This guy was at it and you have to hand it to him because he just didn’t stop,” said Anderson, describing Meehan’s resilience. “He never quit.”
“He went the extra mile to make sure he got where he needed to be, which was back in the cockpit,” Anderson added.
According to Pedro, one of the keys to getting the Aviator better would be his sheer determination and drive.
“He was willing to do whatever it took,” said Pedro. “That’s half the battle.”
Simply put, Pedro described Meehan’s rehabilitation as a series of stimulations, which tested his visual and sensory abilities.
“Once the cogs and the wheels start going, you want them to synchronize,” Pedro said. “The brain has two pacemakers; we wanted the timing of those loops to be right.”
Approximately two-years after his injury, and extensive work with Dr. Pedro, Meehan went back to Walter Reed to complete a series of neuro-cognitive tests required to fly again. These included, but were not limited to, brain exercises testing reactions to loud noises and lights, as well as memory assessments.
“The lead up to being cleared was extremely daunting and unknown,” Meehan said.
Meehan’s efforts paid off and he received an “up slip,” clearing him to fly. In June of 2022, while on annual training at Camp Edwards, Joint Base Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, Meehan conducted his first flight post injury.
“My first flight back I was very nervous,” said Meehan. “I just kept thinking ‘I hope this goes well.’”
“It really took a year after I finally flew to get the mission set back,” Meehan added. “At that point it felt like I finally knew what my future would be like again.”
Meehan attests that without the doctors at Walter Reed, Dr. Pedro, the support from the New Hampshire Army National Guard, and a list of other encouraging individuals throughout his healing journey, he would never be in the cockpit again.
Today, not only is Meehan flying but he is also in command of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment.
“His drive, dedication, compassion and tenacity to recover are the epitome of a truly well-rounded leader,” said Col. Woody Groton, special projects officer with Joint Forces Headquarters and former commander of 54th Troop Command. “His resilience, when faced with adversity and uncertainties, is something we can all learn from.”
That feeling is shared by long-time friend, Anderson.
“Overcoming this injury, to then fly again, and take command,” added Anderson. “He’s simply unmatched by others and this is a testament to his incredible character.”
When asked how it felt to look back and to see how far he’s ventured, Meehan described the experience as eye-opening.
“I think this has made me more well-rounded,” said Meehan. “I’m able to better understand the things my soldiers go through when it comes to challenges, sacrifices and adversity.”
“This journey really made me grow as a person, professionally and personally,” he added. “I think this has made me a better pilot.”
FORT NOVOSEL, AL, UNITED STATES
Story by Kelly Morris
U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence
FORT NOVOSEL, Ala. — It is said that students are often just one encouraging instructor away from being a success story.
For many Chinook pilots over the past 20 years, that instructor was Department of the Army Civilian Charles Mineo, a retired chief warrant officer 4 who served during Desert Storm.
Upon his recent flight in the Chinook marking his 10,000th incident-free flying hour, the well-known instructor pilot at Knox Army Heliport, who is often described as “unorthodox” in his methods, stepped away from the flight line after 19 years of heartfelt teaching and mentoring.
Among the crowd watching as Mineo’s aircraft landed that final time at Knox Army Heliport and steered the helicopter under the ceremonial arc of water spraying from two fire trucks Dec. 8, was Capt. Andrew Givens, commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 223d Aviation Regiment, a former student of Mineo’s.
“He’s extremely dedicated to his profession. His life is training people how to fly and working with different personalities. He takes strangers and makes them family,” Givens said.
During his own training lessons with Mineo a few years ago, Givens recalled he felt he was being pushed to the point of frustration, and then he would have a breakthrough moment where he sincerely appreciated what he learned.
“He puts people in hard situations because he knows they can handle it and then they’ll be better for it. I don’t think I would have learned as much from somebody that wouldn’t have put me through those uncomfortable situations that humbled me and forced me to think outside the box. Guys like Chuck are actually making a difference in these students’ lives to get them to learn and grow as aviators,” he said. “It’s sad to see him go.”
Givens also recalled Mineo going above and beyond in taking care of Soldiers. When Givens got married on a holiday weekend during the goggle phase of his tactics training back in 2018, Mineo presented him with a card and monetary gift so he could to take his wife someplace nice.
“He puts everything he has into his students,” said Givens, who recalled a quote from the retirement ceremony: “’Love, kindness and patience, the more you give, the more you get’. That’s really how he approaches training as well. He does everything he can to make you feel like one of his. He has a very deep connection with all of his students, and a very lasting effect on people,” he said.
Looking back on 45 years of combined federal service, Mineo said he saw early in his military career the impact an instructor can have, while serving as an enlisted survival instructor in the U.S. Air Force.
Two Air Force pilots had gotten into clouds during a routine training flight in Texas, were inverted, and had to eject from the aircraft. Mineo, who was in Washington at the time, got a phone call from one of them.
“I heard your voice while I was coming down in the parachute,” one pilot said, recalling complete sentences from the training he received from Mineo.
“That inspired me,” Mineo said. “That fired me up — I’m not wasting my words, because when it’s needed — and if only one guy needed that, it worked. Survival for me was the basis of forming my military mind, I would say, and my behavioral interactions with people.”
Long before that, he had already settled on his approach to working with people.
“All my mentors have always encouraged me,” he said, reflecting back on how their family doctor encouraged him when he studied premed in college for a few years.
“You have a decision to make at every juncture, at every moment, like right now — do we encourage or do we discourage? We like to think we encourage, but it all depends on what you’re protecting. If you’ve got to protect something, maybe you discourage somebody else.”
In training Chinook aviators, sometimes all it takes is finding “which screw needs to be turned,” he said.
It has everything to do with a keen instructor who creates a climate where ethe student takes ownership of the lesson material.
Mineo recalled a time as an instructor pilot when he was briefed that a particular student he was to fly with could not do autorotation maneuvers. The student was about to get this third ’Unsatisfactory’. Mineo pulled the throttle back, simulated engine failure in the OH-58 A/C Kiowa, and pretended not to be very good at the maneuver himself, which motivated the previously-unsuccessful student.
“He greased that sucker on. That young man did autos that were A maneuvers all day long,” Mineo said. “I learned a big lesson about myself that day. When my student feels a shared responsibility in the outcome, you get success. I laid his grade folder on his platoon leader’s desk and said, ‘This guy’s an A student.’”
“People call me a little unorthodox with some things, and I hate that word, but it’s kind of a Montessori thing, we all have a way that we have to learn,” he said.
What it boils down to is Mineo believes in people.
“When you believe in people it is a contagious and self-perpetuating condition. It’s got to be that way,” he said.
Mineo said the leader’s focus should be on their replacement.
“When I inbrief with my new guys and do my mentoring with them, I tell them you’ve got to realize you’re building credential while you’re doing this, but it’s not about you. It’s about the credential you’re aiding your understudy to build. You’re mentoring that person to create their own credential and therefore they get confidence in doing what they’re doing,” he said.
He said he decided to live vicariously through the success of his students.
“I want to see them succeed. When my students have a good day, I have a grand day. I mean, I’m on top of the clouds. When my students have a bad day, it’s a bad day for me. It’s not a day for me to lash out, it’s a day for me to go, what card did I not pull out of my sleeve to make this happen and how can I made that person better,” he said.
He operates on the premise that the student can do no wrong.
“I tell my wife the same thing, and when I complain about something I need you to remind me of that. She’s somebody’s daughter, she’s somebody’s mother, she’s somebody’s aunt. Everybody I fly with is the same thing,” he said. “The only thing you can do is not comply with what I ask you to do. That’s not good. But in the cockpit if you make a mistake it’s because I allowed you to do it.”
It sets the tone in the cockpit for the student to have the freedom to express themselves, he added.
Reflecting back on his active duty career, Mineo said the reason he initially joined the Army, after 8 years in the Air Force, was the influence of some Huey pilots from the 112th Aviation out of Bangor, Maine. They had helped provide live hoist recovery training opportunities for his survival training program, and one day they gave him an orientation flight and told him they needed resourceful people like him in the Army.
“When someone has a can-do attitude I gravitate toward that and I’m enamored with that,” he said. “They encouraged me with an incentive flight, and I made a decision that changed my life. I initially wanted to be an F-15 pilot for the Air Force, but I would have been too old for that. When your plan fails, it’s best to go with God. That seems to work pretty well for me. But it’s God’s plan.”
That plan would place him on a path to keep him coming back to the Home of Army Aviation.
In the mid-1980s he trained to become a warrant officer aviator at then-Fort Rucker to fly the UH-1H Huey, and after graduating he was assigned to 5-158th Aviation Regiment, 12th Aviation Brigade, V Corps.
After deploying during in support of “Task Force Warrior” during Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991, he would return to Germany, and soon was on his way back to Fort Rucker in the early 1990s to serve as a UH-1H Instructor pilot at 1-212th Aviation Regiment.
A few years later he earned his bachelor’s degree and completed the CH-47D transition. He served in South Korea and returned to Fort Rucker to serve as an OH58 A/C IP and standardizations officer for 1-212th Aviation. He returned for a second tour in Korea where he retired from active duty as a chief warrant officer four after 26 years.
Among his awards were the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medals, Air Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal. He is also qualified in the TH-55.
Mineo returned to Fort Rucker to focus on flight school students as a DA civilian instructor pilot at Fort Novosel in 2004 and continued until December 2023, when he finally decided he would call it quits when he reached his 10,000th flying hour.
That day was December 8. His co-pilot was his son, Lt. Robert Mineo, a former Army aviator who served 8 years in the Army and currently serves in the U.S. Coast Guard at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, and pilots the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.
Chuck recalled his son saying to him, “’Well, you know dad, if you don’t have 10,000 hours of doing something you’re not a master’. That’s why we’re here right now,” he said.
When Robert came through flight school, Chuck was able to be his IP for his first flight in the Chinook back in 2007. Traditionally on the student’s first demonstration flight, called the ‘nickel ride’, the student presents a nickel with his birth year on it to ‘pay’ for the ride.
“It was his give-him-his-nickel-back ride today,” Chuck said, with a smile.
“It’s just an incredible opportunity to fly with your dad,” Robert said. “The command here was fantastic about finding a way we could make it work.”
“It’s always been nice to have a lifeline back to Army aviation. Coming back here feels like home, so many familiar faces, so many people I’ve flown with that he’s flown with over the years. They’ve been able to tell me the fun stories about him. Everybody has a good Chuck story, and it’s awesome.”
Chuck noted, “I have guys here who were my crew chiefs in Germany who babysat Rob.”
Being in the cockpit with his son again for the final flight felt “easy,” Chuck said.
“He’s always been one who listens and articulates well. It’s a reminder that we train the trainer,” he said.
Robert said the Army helped mold him as a leader.
“There’s no camaraderie like you’ll find in the Army,” Robert said. “The Army has a cool way of putting you in some more austere training environments and conditions that creates I think just a deeper seeded bond. I love not just the air assault capability of the Chinook, but it’s a workhorse. Your maintainers, flight engineers and crew chiefs are some of the hardest working people.
“The Army’s leadership style of raising you as a young second lieutenant is always pairing you up with an NCO to train you because you know some things but you really don’t know a lot of things,” Robert said. “Just learning people, learning how to lead … A lot of people will work as hard for you as you work for them.”
Growing up having an active-duty Army aviator dad, Robert said he remembered being at Fort Rucker as a child and being upset that he couldn’t take the TH-55 home with him after attending ‘family day’ at the airfield. While they were in Germany, he saw the pictures of his dad flying near the Leaning Tower of Pisa and flying through the Alps. Chuck would take Rob into the simulator on the weekend, and at 7 years old Rob couldn’t reach the pedals but he could fly an instrument approach.
Robert’s last duty assignment in the Army, he served as a Chinook company commander with 1st Infantry Division in Afghanistan in 2015-2016.
“I have watched the metamorphosis of the little boy becoming a man and then becoming a battle experienced man, and then watching the confidence changes. Those were all going through my head today,” Chuck said.
Rob said it was great to watch his dad in his element again.
“He is an Army Aviation legend.”
First, on behalf of the entire AAAA National Executive Board, and Bill Harris and Janis Arena’s team at the Monroe, Connecticut AAAA global headquarters, I would like to wish you and your families all the peace that is the promise of this holiday season. We hope you have had some time to enjoy each other’s company and appreciate all we must be thankful for. As we start the new year, we are blessed for all that AAAA does, and will do, for you and your families in the future.
We have just concluded our Cribbins Readiness Conference in Huntsville, Alabama as I write this. By metrics, it was our most supported Cribbins Conference to date, with almost 2,100 registered and over 120 exhibitors. A very special thanks to our host, the AAAA Tennessee Valley Chapter led by Mr. Gary Nenninger, and especially to MG Tom O’Connor, Commanding General, Aviation and Missile Command; Acting PEO, Aviation, Mr. Rodney Davis; the Fort Novosel leadership representing MG Mac McCurry (Branch Chief Warrant Officer and Command Sergeant Major) and their leaders; they were omni-present for the two and a half day meeting with our users from the field and our incredible Industry Partners, and attending and participating in the numerous focused working groups. See page 80 for details and photos of our outstanding awardees.
The AAAA Scholarship Foundation held their second annual fund-raising dinner dance during the Cribbins Conference as well. It was a 1960s/70s theme to celebrate the 60 years since the Foundation was established in 1963. As you can see in the photo, your AAAA National Executive Group was hard at work enjoying the event that raised over $90,000 for future scholarships. The band was terrific, and everyone had a great time; it truly put the “fun” back into your dysfunctional/functional AAAA Family! A special thank you to SFI President COL (Ret.) Karen Lloyd and her team of volunteers who created and brought this event to fruition. See her article and more photos on page 96. Also, thank you to all the sponsors but most especially to Diamond Sponsor, Jan Smith and her company S3 Incorporated, and the entertainment sponsor, Amentum. These great industry partners’ measure of underwriting ensured that the event was supremely successful, and supported the most significant AAAA membership benefit, the AAAA Scholarship Foundation, that every year gives out over $650,000 to over 400 students.
And lastly, during the Cribbins Symposium we also held our semi-annual AAAA National Executive Board meeting. I am very grateful to all of our National Executive Board members commitment and am especially impressed with our new AAAA National Members at Large and our new committee chairs, for all the work they are doing from Strategic Planning to the Awards Program. We are currently at a membership of over 19,600 members (only a few hundred away from our all- time high) while our AAAA Chapter activity and financial status are also at all-time high levels; your association continues to be in great shape!
Looking ahead to 2024, the April Annual Summit is literally six exhibit booths away from being completely sold out. The Gaylord Rockies sold out in minutes for hotel rooms, but numerous surrounding hotels are still available. Check out the web site and register today. Note that we are opening the show a day earlier so please plan accordingly.
Again, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you all. We look forward to a prosperous and productive 2024!!
MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
Looking Back, December 2023
By Mark Albertson
By Brigadier General George P. Seneff, Jr.
General George P. Seneff, page 38, Army Aviation, January 31, 1999 issue.
The following was written by Brigadier General George P. Seneff, Jr. in 1966, while he was commanding the 1st Aviation Brigade in Vietnam.
* * * * *
A World War I division commander whom I knew fairly well, and who was a great gentleman and fine commander, said to me one evening in 1945, “I have finally come to realize that the only way to be a good commander in wartime is to be a first-class SOB.”
I have thought this statement over many times in the past 20 years because it has had very special lessons for me. I know, thanks to excellent hindsight, that he was voicing his disappointment with others whom he had led—and who were not as high principled and devoted to duty as he was—had let him down, and unnecessary cost in life and with damage to the furtherance of the effort.
Nicholas Monsarrat, in his superb accounting of human relationships on wartime, “The Cruel Sea,” traces the development of the same philosophy in the words of a British corvette command: “At the beginning, there was time for all sorts of things–making allowances for people like sensitive human beings, and wondering whether they were happy, whether they liked you or not—but now—the war has squeezed out everything except the essentials. You can’t make any allowances now, you can’t forgive a mistake. The price may be too high. It’s too serious now for anything except a 100 percent effort—a 100 percent toughness.”
This is a point in the philosophy of leadership with which successful combat leaders have always had to come to grips: You can’t afford to be a ‘nice guy’ if this means letting standards of training and performance slip, because in a combat situation slippage means death.
Now the point of all this, as far as we aviators are concerned, is that we are always in a combat situation—because we are always fighting the sky; which with great impartiality as we all know, can be intensely beautiful and serene one moment, but which can kill you (and the people you’re responsible for) deader than a mackerel the next.
I’ve personally investigated a lot of accidents in the past few years and I’ve read the reports on a lot of others. In 90 percent of the really nasty ones I’ve seen—where people were killed or maimed or burned—regardless of the immediate cause of the accident, command supervision had a lot to do with allowing it to become a nasty one as opposed in just resulting in bent equipment. The guy’s emergency procedures weren’t good enough, or he tied it up, or he just wasn’t sufficiently well trained to cope with the situation that confronted him.
There is a tremendous tendency in this business to avoid practicing the hairier aspects of our operations, such as short-field work, night-and-day formation work, night confined area operations and living at low altitude. This is a natural tendency because, in itself, practicing means exposure can lead to what we are trying to avoid. It can build up accident rates which, when they become high, reflect poorly upon command.
Nonetheless, it is only through diligent and unceasing practice of these aspects of the game that our people become good enough at them to perform them safely, or at least with minimum risk. Good aviation organizations, just like good organizations of any other sort, have proven time and again that they can do it safely and effectively. They gained this capability by increasingly diligent practice and training.
I must emphasize that they didn’t get this way overnight, nor did they start off tackling the most difficult facets of operations on a large scale on the first day. They built up to it gradually by making sure first that their people as individuals were trained and standardized and that they knew what they were doing, leading them very gradually up the stairs of difficulty, in balance with demonstrated capability.
For example, you teach people how to avoid wires by having them fly low and learning to recognize the signatures that indicate wires, but you don’t let them leap into this without looking. You work your way into it gradually by having an experienced instructor pilot aboard, by working down to low altitude from a somewhat higher altitude (say 50 to 100 feet), by the use of carefully surveyed courses which the IP has taken the precaution to fly at reasonable altitude on any given morning before taking students out, to insure that some knucklehead hasn’t strung new wire up between a couple of trees during the night. In short, you teach this by taking an intelligently planned approach.
But the big thing is that you make the approach, and you make your people do it and you make them practice. You drill them on emergency procedures and teach them all the tricks that your older hands can give you until you can tell yourself truthfully that your people are trained and are capable of coping with any situation that is likely to confront them. On emergency procedures, a good tip an Air Force friend passed to me was that of having the approved emergency procedure for one of the likely emergencies for the aircraft owned by the unit thoroughly reviewed by a different member of the organization every morning at the preflight briefing.
The challenge lies with you. If, after an accident, you can tell yourself, “I have done everything within my power in training, in maintenance and in discipline to prevent this,” then you are a good commander. If you can’t, you aren’t. One word about who is a commander—we all are. We have battalion commanders, platoon leaders, and section and team leaders. We also have aircraft commanders. If you are the lowest-ranking guy in this business, you are still, if you’re commanding an aircraft, responsible for the airplane and the lives of other people who might happen to be aboard.
Finally, a word about the first paragraph of this dissertation: Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you really have to be an SOB in order to accomplish the desired results. You have to lead—preferably by example. Precisely how you do it is a matter of your personality, the organization and the situation. Some of the best leaders I have known have been very pleasant people, but they very pleasantly insisted on extremely high standards. How you achieve them is secondary. Just make sure you do—you are preparing your people for combat in a dangerous game.
Source: See pages 38 and 39, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., January 31, 1999.
* * * * *
There is more than just a single philosophy of command. General Seneff’s is the result of his being a product of American society, typically Middle Class, with a different perspective towards war. But then again, what type of war. This can most certainly make a difference. And that leads us to the perspective of a gentleman named, T.E. Lawrence or the famous Lawrence of Arabia.
T.E. Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain image.
He led a revolt, an Arab revolt. For he joined battle not merely to defeat Ottoman forces in league with the Triple Alliance, Imperial Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, but for the rise, perhaps, of an Arab nation, as perceived with the Damascus Protocol. Arguably Lawrence was one of the last of the romantic warriors in the modern era.
Below is T.E. Lawrence, from, The Evolution of a Revolt:
“My own personal duty was to command, and I began to unravel command and analyze it, both from the point of view of strategy, the aim in war, the synoptic regard which sees everything by the standard of the whole, and from the point of view called tactics, the means towards the strategic end, the steps of its staircase.
“In each I found the same elements, one algebraical, one biological, a third psychological. The first seemed a pure science, subject to the law of mathematics, without humanity. It dealt with known invariables, fixed conditions, space and time, inorganic things like hills and climates and railways, with mankind in type—masses too great for individual variety, with all artificial aids, and the extensions given to our faculties by mechanical intervention. It was essentially formulable. . . .
“The second factor was biological, the breaking-point, life and death, or better, wear and tear. Bionomics seemed a good name for it. The war-philosophers had properly made it an art, and had elevated one item in it, ‘effusion of blood,’ to the height of a principle. It became humanity in battle, an art touching every side of our corporal being, and very warm. There was a line of variability (man) running through all its estimates. Its components were sensitive and illogical, and generals guarded themselves by the device of a reserve, the significant medium of their art. . . .
“Nine-tenths of tactics are certain and taught in books: but the irrational tenth is like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and that is the test of generals. It can only be ensued by instinct, sharpened by thought practicing the stroke so often that at the crisis it is as natural as a reflex. . . .
“The third factor in command seemed to be psychological, that science (Xenophon called it diathetic) of which our propaganda is a strained and ignoble part. . . . The printing press is the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander, and we, being amateurs in the art of command, began our war in the atmosphere of the twentieth century, and thought of our weapons without prejudice, not distinguishing one from another socially. The regular officer has the tradition of forty generations of serving soldiers behind him, and to him the old weapons are the most honored. We had seldom to concern ourselves with what our men did, but much with what they thought, and to us the diathetic was more than half command. In Europe it was set a little aside and entrusted to men outside the General Staff. In Asia we were so weak physically that we could not let the metaphysical weapon rust unused. We had won a province when we had taught the civilians in it to die for our ideal freedom: the presence or absence of the enemy was a secondary matter. . . .
“Napoleon had said it was rare to find generals willing to fight battles. The curse of this war was that so few could do anything else. Napoleon had spoken in angry reaction against the excessive finesse of the eighteenth century, when men almost forgot that war gave them license to murder. We had been swinging out on his dictum for a hundred years and it was time to get back a bit again. . . . Our cards were speed and time, not hitting power, and these gave us strategical rather than tactical strength. Range is more to strategy than force. The invention of bully-beef has modified land-war more profoundly than the invention of gun-powder.
“My chiefs did not follow all these arguments, but gave me leave to try my hand after my own fashion. We went off first to Akaba, and took it easily. Then we took Tafilah and the Dead Sea: then Azrak and Deraa, and finally Damascus, all in successive stages worked out consciously on these sick-bed theories. . . .
“In character these operations were more like warfare than ordinary land operations, in their mobility, their ubiquity, their independence of bases and communications, their lack of ground features, of strategic areas, of fixed directions, of fixed points. ‘He who commands the sea is at great liberty, and may take as much or as little of the war as he will’: he who commands the desert is equally fortunate.”
Source: See pages 285 and 286, “T.E. Lawrence: From: ‘The Evolution of a Revolt,’” The Sword and the Pen: Selections from the World’s Greatest Military Writings, by Sir Basil Liddell Hart, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1976. Edited by Adrian Liddell Hart.
MG (Ret.) Todd Royar, Mr. Bill Harris, Ms. Janis Arena and I are just back from the retirement ceremony for Mr. Geoffrey
Downer, Director Special Programs (Aviation), AMCOM and PEO, Rotary Wing, USSOCOM at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Hundreds of Geoff’s co-workers, friends, family, personnel from supported units and Army Aviation Branch leaders, and our
industry partner representatives packed the Jacobs Conference Center… providing one of the most sincerely heartfelt expressions
of gratitude and appreciation for his incredible service that I’ve have seen in many years.
Since 1983, Geoff has been a singularly consequential leader in developing and providing the most sophisticated and classified
capabilities to U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation forces requirements. He was and is a true humble servant leader.
It was my distinct honor to induct Geoff into the Gold Order of Saint Michael on September 26 and help recognize his amazing
accomplishments, almost all of which will never be made public. LTG Erik Peterson, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8 was the keynote
speaker and MG Tom O’Connor, Commander, AMCOM was the presiding officer…both of whom did an extraordinary job of
articulating Mr. Downer’s character, values, selfless service, and contributions spanning 40-plus years of faithful service to our
Nation. I was also honored to induct Geoff’s wife Beth into the Honorable Order of Our Lady of Loreto for her unfailing career-
long support of her husband and his organization. Good luck and best wishes Geoff and Beth in your retirement and on behalf of
all our 19,300 AAAA members, thank you for all you have done.
We initiated our AAAA event season with the Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) Symposium, September 11-13 in
Huntsville at the Von Braun Center. Very grateful for a record turn-out of support from both our government and industry partner
attendees and most importantly, we surfaced some impactful issues over the three and a half days of classified and unclassified
sessions focused on holistic Aviation Survivability. See page 50 for more details and photos of our ASE, AMSO, and Avionics
award winners. Special thanks to MG Mac McCurry, our Branch Chief, and BG Ed Barker, PEO, IEWS for their enduring support
and commitment to this forum and their insightful and timely organizational updates.
Now as previously promised, here is an update on the 2024 Summit. The AAAA meeting team went out to Denver for a site
visit for the April 24-26, 2024 Summit a few weeks ago. The latest information is that we are opening registration and housing on
October 26. The Gaylord Rockies Hotel has significantly less rooms capacity than the Gaylord in Nashville. As a result, it will sell
out in minutes once we open. We have 12 additional overflow hotels that will all be visible on the registration site when we open.
We anticipate that we will have a waiting list for the Gaylord and will work that down as rooms become available usually in late
March or early April. We are working on a shuttle transportation option as well and will be seeking corporate sponsors to help
offset that cost. If necessary, we will contract additional hotels.
If current exhibit demand is any indication, the 2024 Summit looks to be ‘off the charts’. We have almost totally sold out of
available exhibit space at this point, and that is even with the construction of an additional 30,000 square foot heated and air-
conditioned tent adjacent to the permanent exhibit hall.
We are also modifying the agenda to open the professional sessions on Wednesday, a day earlier than previous Summits, and
starting each day’s program at a more reasonable hour. This way we can hopefully provide more professional development hours,
as well as exhibit hours.
We are also blessed to have the new Chief of Staff of the Army, GEN Randy George, GEN Laura Richardson, CG,
USSOUTHCOM, and GEN Dan Hokanson, Chief, NGB all tentatively accepting to keynote and help anchor the event. Again, we
ask for your patience and understanding as we work through the coordination and planning with the Gaylord Rockies; we had no
idea years ago when we contracted for Denver, that our AAAA Annual Summit would be growing by 30% in the intervening
Finally, remember the Joseph P. Cribbins Readiness Conference, November 13-15, 2023 in Huntsville, AL. All of the planning,
coordination, and commitment for that event are really positive and I look forward to seeing you all there!
MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
It is hard to believe that five months have elapsed since our Annual Summit in Nashville.
As reported previously, your National Executive Group (NEG) met at the Connecticut Headquarters to synchronize our path ahead back in June. Part of our discussions centered around the identification and selection of our new Standing Committee Chairs; I am grateful to those that have agreed to take on the Chairman duties and responsibilities and am pleased to announce the following appointments: By-Laws and Legal – COL (Ret.) Shelly Yarborough; Civilian Affairs – BG (Ret.) Kelly Thomas; Finance – BG (Ret.) Tim Edens; Hall of Fame Trustees – CSM (Ret.) Tod Glidewell; Industry Affairs – MG (Ret.) Frank Muth; Legislative Affairs – LTC (Ret.) Josh Baker; National Guard and Reserve – BG (Ret.) J. Ray Davis; Awards Selection – COL (Ret.) Scott Schisser; and Strategic Planning and Communications – COL (Ret.) Angelia Farnell.
Speaking of assignments, I have to say this should be one of our favorite issues of ARMY AVIATION Magazine, the Annual “Blue Book” that lists all of the major Army Aviation offices, organizations and formations. Between the invaluable detailed point of contact information and the photos of all our senior Aviation leaders, it really provides an opportunity to appreciate the breadth, depth, and contributions of Army Aviation to the greater Army and Joint Force.
In August, several of us in the AAAA National Executive Group had the privilege to attend the retirement and Change of Responsibility ceremonies of our Senior Army Aviator and (now former) Army Chief of Staff, GEN Jim McConville. What an unparalleled example of professionalism, leadership, and selfless service GEN McConville has provided all of us in a career spanning over 42 years. We look forward to his continuing contributions to the Army and Army Aviation in retirement.
We have now entered the rewarding AAAA event season with the September Aircraft Survivability Equipment Symposium in Huntsville already behind us by the time you read this (notably, ASE registration is running significantly above last year’s event in Lexington, KY). In addition, we have our Senior Executive Associates meeting with the Army Aviation Six Pack, Plus One, led by GEN (Ret.) J.D. Thurman, following the AUSA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on October 12th. On the heels of that, we have the Cribbins Readiness Forum in Huntsville, AL November 13-15 and then we end this calendar year with the Luther Jones Army Aviation Depot Forum in Corpus Christi, TX on December 5-6.
And among all of the above we have been inducting numerous individuals into the Gold Order of St. Michael around the country to recognize those who have given so much to our Branch and Army (see pages 130-131 for photos and details). Also, it’s important to highlight that our Executive Director, Mr. Bill Harris, and Senior Vice President, MG (Ret.) Wally Golden, visited the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Annual Reunion in San Antonio, TX on July 1 where they met with the VHPA Executive Committee regarding an even closer relationship with the VHPA in future years to include reprinting articles from their magazine (see page 124 in this issue). The VHPA is one of the largest AAAA Scholarship Foundation contributors with historical funding of well over $400,000!
In the next Army Aviation Magazine issue, we will provide an update on our planning and preparation for the 2024 Summit in Denver, Colorado. Spoiler alert, we are going to be in numerous hotels and Industry exhibit demand is off the charts. Who knew the AAAA Summit would grow as much as it has after we signed the 2024 contract for the Denver Gaylord back in 2019!
To all our members, thanks for all you are continuing to do for our Army, Army Aviation, and our Association. We hope you and your families have had a wonderful summer, and as always, I look forward to hearing from you!!
Above the Best.
MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA