Looking Back, April 2023
By Mark Albertson

Part III:  Completing the Circle

As with many of Man’s distinguished endeavors, success is attained most always with a decision that is hardly unanimous.  Why should the quest for branchhood be any different?  And so it was not.  Many had concerted opinions for; with others expressing convictions against; while there were some, such as Major General Robert L. Wetzel, commandant of Infantry at Fort Benning who, in Part II of this series, seemed to be mired in No Man’s Land.  Yet branchhood was coming, despite the contrarian viewpoints of the naysayers.  For it seemed to the confederates of branchhood, a powerful ally occupied the office of Army Chief of Staff.

Army Aviators have haggled over the issue of a separate Branch after WWII and the Korean War. The Vietnam postwar years are proving not to be an exception.

General Edward C. Meyer, Army Chief of Staff, June 22, 1979 to June 21, 1983, held the position of command owing, in part, to an impressive rap sheet of airborne soldiery.  First Airborne Battle Group, 501st Infantry; deputy commander, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), ending up as 1st Cavalry chief of staff, during the Vietnam War.  He was assistant division commander (support) of the 82nd Airborne Division. . . As Army Chief of Staff, General Meyer, “prosecuted an Army-wide modernization program with emphasis on quality over quantity, stressed the need for a long-term investment in land force material, and launched a unit-manning system to reduce personnel turbulence and to enhance readiness, retired from active service, June 1983.”[1]

GEN John R. Galvin, an infantry man who rose to serve as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO) from 1987 to 1992, helped define the need for an Aviation branch in his infamous “Training Panel” report during the 1982 Army Aviation Systems Program Review.

Another booster of aviation was not even cockpit qualified, Major General John Galvin, commander of the 24th Infantry Division.  He “presented his infamous Training Panel report to the assembled Army Aviation System Program Review (AASPR) general officer review board on March 25, 1982.  Galvin made the branch a key issue . . . Galvin’s immediate superior, Lieutenant General Jack Mackmull, the XVIII Airborne Corps commander had very strongly suggested to Galvin that the ‘branch’ was indeed the key issue.”[2]

AASPR GORB (General Officers Review Board), as noted above, “Was” co-chaired by General John W. Vessey, the Army’s vice chief of staff, and General Glenn K. Otis, TRADOC commanding general.

“These issues were directly related to fundamental elements of any Army branch:  concepts, doctrine, literature, training, personnel, management, equipment and organizational structure.

“At that time, aviation was decentralized to a multitude of other Army branches:

“The Armor branch owned scout and attack aviation, the Infantry owned utility aviation, the Transportation Corps owned transport and cargo aviation, and aviation maintenance; Military Intelligence owned intelligence gathering aviation; the Signal Corps owned the radio and electronic repairers, Field Artillery owned aerial observation and so on.

“All these issues culminated during the AASPR, when then Major General John R. Galvin, the 24th Infantry Division commanding general, presented his infamous ‘Training Panel’ report to the assembled GORB.”[3]

Among the recommendations suggested by General Galvin’s committee was more a concerted approach to training within Army Aviation.  That training should become “institutionalized,” that is, fashioned and arranged by Army Aviation, comprised of Army Aviation basic training followed by advanced training for commissioned Aviation officers.

“The need for a ‘heart’ for Army Aviation was no different than the ‘heart’ that existed for all other Army combat arms branches.

“The ‘heart’ General Galvin referred to was a branch, with a home where its subject matter experts taught the basic and advanced courses.”[4]

The Army Aviation System Program Review was now tasked to review the findings of General Galvin’s panel.  More directly, the ball was in the court of the co-chairmen of AASPR/GORB, General John W. Vessey and General Glenn K. Otis.  The former remarked, “Well, that horse just dropped a bunch of apples in the road.  You either sweep off the road and go on, or you pick them up and use them for fertilizer.  We need to wrestle this question to the ground.

“He then asked what Otis planned to do.  Without hesitation, Otis accepted the mission to deal with the branch question.”[5]

General Otis, commander of TRADOC ordered Major General Carl H. McNair, Jr., then in command of the Army Aviation Center, to have a study done concerning the various issues for branchhood, to be completed within a 90-day window, then to be forwarded to Army leadership for a final decision on the issue.  Such aspects included:

  • “Field visits to operational units and installations.
  • “Individual interviews and questionnaires.
  • “Field trips specifically to 11 corps and division level organizations.
  • “Field trips to five TRADOC centers and to three Army Material Command Organizations.
  • “Questionnaire data analysis.
  • “And a general officer advisory board’s (GORB) review of study results and recommendations prior to submission for an Army level decision.
  • “In June 1982, Otis approved the draft study directive and the TROAA Study Group[6] was formed.”[7]

The TROAA panel was staffed by Major General Benjamin L. Harrison, an infantryman and aviator who had commanded both air and ground units.  Lieutenant General Richard L. West, (Ret.), a former engineer officer who was a non-aviator and who had previously been a comptroller of the Army.  CW4 John P. Valaer, an experienced Army Aviator and Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.), an artillery officer and aviator, who had served as a Field Artillery battery and brigade executive officer as well as having commanded an aviation company and battalion.

In the course of approval, some 28 meetings were convened; a myriad of commands were visited; personal interviews were conducted; 603 questionnaires were reviewed; Army personnel, both aviator and non-aviator were consulted, ranging in rank from three stripes to three stars.

The resulting data from the initiatives conducted above was collated and prepared for a final draft report.  And at Fort Gordon, Georgia, a GORB collection of general officers was mustered for August 1982.

Chairman was General Glenn K. Otis.  He briefed the assemblage for more than three hours.  Following his singular presentation, he petitioned his fellow officers for questions, observations and counter points.  In the end, most concurred with the notion that the TROAA study be forwarded to the Army Chief of Study for approval or disapproval.

On April 12, 1983, Army Chief of Staff, General Edward C. Meyer, approved of Aviation taking its place on the masthead of Army branches.  This, in turn, was followed in February 1984 by:

No. 6

Department of the Army
Washington, D.C., 15 February 1984

ARMY AVIATION BRANCH.   Pursuant to the authority contained in Title 10, United States Code, section 3063 (a)(13), the Aviation branch is established as a basic branch of the Army effective 12 April 1983.
By Order of the Secretary of the Army:

General, United States Army,
Chief of Staff


Major General, United States Army
The Adjutant General

DISTRIBUTION:  Active Army, ARNG, USAR:  To be distributed in accordance with the DA Form 12-4 requirements for Department of the Army General Orders.[8]

LTG Carl E. Vuono, deputy commanding general of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and the commanding general of Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., presents MG Bobby J. Maddox, right, commanding general of the Army Aviation Center and Fort Rucker, Ala., with the first proof set of the new Aviation branch insignia during a Jan. 16, 1984 ceremony. Shortly thereafter, the Secretary of the Army approved with General Order #6 the creation of the Aviation branch on Feb. 14, 1984, with an effective date of April 12, 1983.

* * * * *


*  There is one thing which was absolutely proved in the European War (reference to 1914-1918), and that is that nobody was capable of handling air units except flying officers who had learned by experience what flying was and how these things should be handled.[9]

*  The great trouble now is that, whenever an air question is up for discussion, mostly individuals who are not air officers are consulted.  No one is capable of passing on air matters except an air officer trained in the work.[10]

The above are remarks from General William “Billy” Mitchell.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.  He was writing about how the Air Service, Air Corps, later to become the United States Army Air Forces could become an autonomous service.  And the essence of the progression was the growing sophistication of this phenomenon known as airpower, marching along as it was, during the era of industrialized, corporatized, commercialized war, with land power and naval power.  All were becoming more mechanically and technologically oriented, leading to a specialization of tasks requiring airpower, for it was to be led by those best qualified to lead same, . . . airmen.

History, though, repeated itself again with the Korean War; that is, from the perspective of Army Aviation.  Only here, the Industrial Revolution was giving way to the Technology Revolution.  But the end result has been the same.  Horizontal Determinism again showcases to those astute enough to chart such progressions of history, and can view with accuracy, the results of Man’s endeavors, which are repetitive in nature.  Underscoring for us two journeys in the development of airpower, leading to results comparative in kind, in 1947 and again in 1983.


[1]  “Meyer—EC-U.S. Army,” Army Center of Military History.  History.army.mil/books/CG&CSA/Meyer-EC.htm

[2]  See page 32, “Dealing With the Aviation Branch Issue:  A Tough Sell to the Army,” Army Aviation, by Major General Benjamin L. Harrison, (Ret.), February 29, 2008.

[3]  See pages 34 and 35, “Dealing With the Branch Issue—Forming Aviation as a Combat Arm of the Army,” Army Aviation, by Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.), January 31, 2008.

[4]  See page 35, Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.).

[5]  See page 35, Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.).

[6]  TRADOC Review of Army Aviation.

[7]  See page 35, Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.).

[8]  Refer to GENERAL ORDERS No. 6, HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, Washington, D.C., 15 February 1984, ARMY AVIATION BRANCH, effective 12 April 1983.

[9]  See pages 8 and 9, “Fundamental Truths of Airpower,” William “Billy” Mitchell’s Air Power, by Lieutenant Colonel Johnny R. Jones, USAF.

[10]  See page 9, Lieutenant Colonel Johnny R. Jones, USAF.

Bibliography for Series

Albertson, Mark, “30th Anniversary of Army Aviation as a Branch,” Vol. 62, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March-April 2013.

“Aviation Branch,” www.usar.army.mil/Portals/98/Documents/ARCD/AA…  1 June 2017.

Bergerson, Frederic A., The Army Gets an Air Force:  Tactics of Insurgent Bureaucratic Politics, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1978.

Cook, Major Charles B., “Establishing an Aviation Branch,” Vol. 30, No. 11, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., November 30, 1981.

Cook, Major Charles B., “It’s Time for an Aviation Branch,” Vol. 30, Nos. 8 & 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., August-September 1981.

Cribbins, Joseph P., “Army Aviation in 1983-1992:  The Modern Era Arrives,” Vol. 41, No. 12, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., December 31, 1992.

Doty, Colonel Benjamin E, “Its to be a ‘Specialty,’” Vol. 24, No. 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., September 30, 1975.

Estes, Colonel Ernest F., (Ret.), “Dealing with the Branch Issue—Forming Aviation as a Combat Arm of the Army,” Vol. 57, No. 1, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., January 31, 2008.

Fardink, Lieutenant Colonel Paul J., (Ret.), “The Army Aviation Branch Creation—A Look Back:  An Interview With Major General Carl H. McNair, Retired, the First Army Aviation Branch Chief,” Vol. 62, No. 5, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., May 31, 2013.

Gant, CW5 Randall, “Chief Warrant Officer of the Branch Update:  The Aviation Branch, 25 Years of Great Service,” Army Aviation, Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.

GENERAL ORDERS NO. 6, HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, Washington, D.C., 15 February 1984, ARMY AVIATION BRANCH, effective 12 April 1983.

Grualing, CW3 William G., (Ret.), “No, We Have One Now!” Vol. 24, No. 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., September 30, 1975.

Harrison, Major General Benjamin L., (Ret.), “Dealing with the Aviation Branch Issue:  A Tough Sell to the Army,” Vol. 57, No. 2, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., February 29, 2008.

Jones, Lieutenant Colonel Johnny R., USAF, William “Billy” Mitchell’s Air Power, Airpower Research Institute, College of Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, September 1997.

Kalagian, Colonel Samuel P., “Pandora’s Box,” Vol. 24, No. 5, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., May 21, 1975.

Kinnard, Lieutenant General Harry W.O., “Aviation as a System,” Vol. 17, No. 1, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., January 27, 1968.

Knudson, Brigadier General Wayne C., “Branching Out in the 80’s!” Vol. 33, No. 3, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., March 31, 1984.

Maddox, Brigadier General William J., Jr., Director Army Aviation, OACSFOR, DA, “The Question of a Separate Branch,” Vol. 20, Nos. 7 & 8, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., July-August 1971.

McNair, Carl H., Colonel, Infantry, Fort Rucker, Alabama, “No, Says Another Veteran!” Vol. 24, No. 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., September 30, 1975.

McNair, Major General Carl H., (Ret.), “Birth of the Army Aviation Branch, April 12, 1983,” Army Aviation, Vol. 56, No. 12, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., December 31, 2007.

“Meyer—EC-U.S. Army,” Army Center of Military History.  History.army.mil/books/CG&CSA/Meyer-EC.htm

Meyer, General Edward C., (Ret.), “Looking Back as We Look Ahead to the Next 25 Years of Army Aviation,” Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.

Miller, Colonel James H, Commander, 12th Aviation Group and Kitterman, Colonel James H., Commander, 11th Aviation Group, “Aviation as a Branch,” Vol. 30, No. 11, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., November 30, 1981.

Packett, Major General Virgil L., II, “From the Aviation Branch Chief:  25 Years of Army Aviation, Securing Aviation’s Role in the Profession of Arms,” Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.

Parker, Brigadier General Ellis D. Parker, “Potpourri:  Atlanta, the New Branch and Modernization (AAMP),” Vol. 32, No. 5, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., May 15, 1983.

Putnam, Lieutenant Colonel (P) Carl M., “Close Pandora’s Box,” Vol. 24, Nos. 7 & 8, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., July-August 1975.

Sanders, CSM Donald R., “Command Sergeant Major Update:  Looking Back at a Quarter Century of Our Great History and Service,” Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.

Thompson, A.C., Colonel, USA, (Ret.), “A Separate Branch? . . . Yes!” Vol. 24, No. 9, Army Aviation, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., September 30, 1975.

“U.S. Army Aviation Branch, 25th Anniversary,” Army Aviation, Vol. 57, Nos. 3 & 4, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Monroe, Ct., March/April 2008.

Looking Back / Army Aviation, March 2023; By Mark Albertson



Part II: Discourse and Debate

Within a three-and-a-half-year study conducted by the Officer of Personnel Management System in the seventies, Major General George Putnam, Director of Military Personnel Policy, recommended that Army Aviation should be organized as a branch.  Such was disapproved by General Bernard Rogers, then Chief of Staff.  “Aviation is an ‘entry specialty’ within a combat arms affiliated ‘carrier’ branch, stressing that aviators, . . . ‘must be experts in aviation.’”[1]

Yet, even among the Aviation community, opinions varied with regards to branchhood.  For instance, Brigadier General William J. Maddox, Director of Army Aviation OACSFOR, DA, began his criticism with the issue of Centralization versus Decentralization of aerial assets in the wake of World War I.  He acknowledged the growing sophistication of aircraft and aviation techniques and skills that would eventually require the divorce of the Air Force from the Army in 1947.  However, . . .

. . . he continued with, “Those who supported decentralization of aviation did so as an extension of the normal philosophy of organizing Army units.  For example, the tank is a ground striking weapon which, when massed, has the capacity for breakthroughs, exploitation and victory on the battlefield.  Similarly, artillery, when massed, can provide a devastating effect on the enemy.

“The question is at what level should tanks or artillery or other ground weapons be massed and how and at what levels can they be appropriately controlled to gain the maximum combat advantage.  Rather than concentrate all artillery and tanks at the Army level, we normally decentralize so that battalions of tanks and artillery work for division commanders and massing can occur at battalion, brigade, or division level.  We give corps and army commanders the capability to influence the battle and implement priorities of effort by providing non-divisional tank and artillery battalions for their use.  They can also mass divisions.”[2]  At the same time, Artillery and Armor are branches within the Army masthead.  Again however, . . .

. . . “When advocates of decentralization emerged from World War II, only the artillery had its own aircraft.  These were Piper Cubs which were assigned permanently to artillery battalions.  Immediately after the war those of us from cavalry, infantry, and other branches began flight training so that other ground organizations could have regularly assigned aircraft.

“The Army has followed this philosophy constantly so that we now have aviators in most arms and branches of the Army.  The Medical Service Corps mans medical evacuation aircraft; Signal Corps aviators are assigned to signal battalions and groups; Transportation Corps officers, in addition to administering maintenance, also man heavy lift aircraft; rated Ordinance Corps officers administer aerial weapons projects, and so it goes throughout the Army.

“The decentralization philosophy also has been followed in the assignment of proponency for aviation units.  General Westmoreland assigned branch proponency for assault helicopter units to the infantry.  The Infantry Center is concerned with lift company TO@Es, and the doctrine for their employment.  Heavy lift companies come under the proponency of the Transportation Corps.  Armor is responsible for air cavalry organizations and for attack helicopter companies which bear a relationship to cavalry and tank units.  The Artillery, of course, has cognizance over aerial artillery.  Military Intelligence is concerned with Mohawk companies whose mission is to gather intelligence material.

“When you view the organization of the Army in this manner, it becomes clear that the Army will be much stronger in its capability to perform its combat tasks if it continues with the decentralization philosophy.  We have been down the centralization path previously and find that it does not meet our requirements.  We utilize the centralized resources provided by other services as an ad-on to our own capabilities which we must possess on a full-time basis.  Thus the close air support fighter can be an occasional contributor to the battlefield effort of a front line unit but Army resources are available on a full-time basis.”[3]

The issue of Centralization versus Decentralization was not the sole basis of argument for or against branchhood.  Others were fielding arguments beyond those brought forth by General Maddox.  Colonel Andrew J. Miller, Commander, 12th Aviation Group, wrote, “With the exception of branch intensive schooling, we have the ideal situation for incorporating our Aviation officers into a new Aviation Branch.

“Aviation technology is exploding.  The new UH-60 is arriving in field units.  The CH-47 modernization program is underway.  The YAH-64 will become a reality in the near future.  Deficiencies in our Scout helicopters have resulted in the Near Term Scout Helicopter (NTSM) and AHIP.

“These and other major advances in technology will dictate large changes in Aviation operations.  Technicians and logisticians will be required to respond with new tactics, incorporating ever increasing Aviation capabilities, to better integrate Aviation into the combined arms team.”[4]

Colonels Miller and Kitterman were seconded by Major Charles B. Cook, who had stated just two months previously, “We’ve been fortunate to acquire some remarkable new aircraft, such as the UH-60 ‘Black Hawk,’ which is presently being fielded, and the pending AH-64 attack helicopter.  These new ‘state-of-the-art’ aircraft open up some tremendous opportunities for growth in aviation tactics and doctrine.  They’ll significantly alter the shape and outcome of today’s and tomorrow’s mid-to-high-intensity battlefields.”[5]

Major Cook also suggested, in an addendum to his article, that Army Aviation was the medium for an “Open Forum” on branchhood, to which he remarked, “I’ve been appalled at the apathy shown by most aviators regarding a separate Aviation Branch.  We need to discuss this in open forum—the vehicle of the magazine is excellent—and we should stimulate some of your Tigers in developing pro and con views in this area.”[6]

General William Wallace Ford

The man who started it all, Brigadier General William Wallace Ford, who organized and then led the Air Observation Post, the proverbial seed of Army Aviation. Ford was the first Director of Air Training.

Colonels Miller and Kitterman took Major Cook at his word, for they followed up in support with a literary effort two months later.  Yet, six years earlier, a contrary opinion was rendered by Lieutenant Colonel (P) Carl M. Putnam, HQ, ARR-IV, Atlanta, Georgia.  Lieutenant Colonel Putnam wrote in response to an article, “Pandora’s Box,” which appeared in the May 1975 issue of Army Aviation: 

“Airmobility:  The crucial question is not what can the Army do for aviators but rather what can the proposed Aviation branch do for the Army.  Since aviation is not an end in itself, the answer is ‘nothing.’

“The doctrine of airmobility upon which aviation is founded,[7] is defined as using aerial vehicles to better accomplish traditional Army missions; missions which are already a responsibility of the various branches.  Branch schools currently teach the principles used in accomplishing these missions.

“Therefore, if expensive vehicles are needed to accomplish a type of mission, then the branch primarily responsible for that, already established and its assigned mission, should provide the expertise to operate and control these machines.

“Branch qualification is, or should be, important to that concept.  On the other hand, if branch expertise is not required to accomplish the Army’s missions, then the branch school system is out of date.”[8]

The article Lieutenant Colonel Putnam had referenced and upon which his riposte had been based had been published in Army Aviation two months prior.  The author, Colonel Samuel P. Kalagan, had focused his argument on personnel, the aviators themselves, as to what effects branchhood would have or, even would not have, on aviation personnel.

Midway through his article, Colonel Kalagan compared, weighed and measured the amount of personnel in aviation as opposed to the other branches of the Army, “. . . there are 9,500 commissioned and 5,000 warrant aviators on active duty.  Do you realize that these totals make us the second largest branch in the Army?  MI is a separate branch of intelligence specialists and they only total 4,600.  The JAG, a pure specialist branch, has only 1,700 officers.  Signal is a biggie specialist group with 6,000 officers.[9]

Lieutenant Colonel Carl Putnam took a contrary position most definite.  In this he referenced the “Law of Supply and Demand.’  “When the war in Vietnam was over, the number of aircraft in the Army was reduced, of course, and the need for aviators became much less.  Thus, many aviators became victims of the RIF.  It should be noted that the law of supply and demand applies to every skill, not just aviators.

“For example, Finance, Quartermaster, Signal, and a few other branches were short officers so some aviators avoided the RIF by transferring to these branches.  The formation of an Aviation branch, could only make matters worse and perhaps cause a further RIF of aviators.

For example, “Branch requirements based on cockpit seats would be short of 15,000 aviators now on active duty.  Under the present system, aviators in excess of requirements are absorbed by their using ‘ground allocations.’  The branches are willing to do this because they recognize talent and the contribution of aviators to increased combat effectiveness on the battlefield.”[10]

Again, the above was in response to an earlier point made by Colonel Kalagan in “Pandora’s Box,” to which:

“Argument:  If we place all aviators in a single branch, we lose effectiveness in aviation support because the aviator would lose his coincidence of interest with the other branches and be less effective.

“Answer:  Before RVN, the aviator was programmed to serve one year in every five, by regulation, to be considered ‘carrier qualified.’  This year could be met by attendance at an Advanced Course; by a tour with an ROTC unit; by a tour as the S-1, S-2, S-4, or Assistant S-3 (Liaison Officer) with a branch TO&E battalion; as the Commander of any HQs Company; and occasionally, if one were lucky, by commanding a rifle company or a firing battery or a recon troop.

“Some aviators served the minimum of nine months to a year in such assignments; others, got a much as 24 months or more.  It was erratic, however, and did not equate to even one year in five.

“If the aviator took charge of his own career and shopped around hard enough, he could get more than the minimum.  If one waited for OPD managers to arrange for the ground tour, the one in five principle didn’t work too successfully.  Sure, they’d place you in the environment, such as USAREUR, but from arrival on, you were on your own.

“During RVN, ground duty was shut off to aviators unless individuals made their own special personal arrangement to serve in a branch TO&E non-aviator combat unit in-country.  DCSPER&OPD covered this gap in the commissioned aviator’s career by ‘advertising’ selection boards to give aviators due consideration for failing to do more than fly.”[11]

Before taking leave of the thoughts of Colonel Kalagan, we must regard his ideas on ‘aviators who got RIF’ed.’

“Did such instructions help?  During the 1974 RIF, 22% of all aviators in the OPD branches authorized aviators were RIF’ed, while only 18% of the eligible non-aviator officers got the axe.  How will selection boards look at aviators now that the RVN is completed.  Maybe the answer lies in how many eligible field grade aviators were selected recently for other than Aviation Troop Commands?

“This magazine used to print such ‘success’ stories—command selection, senior service school selection, etc.  The next such publication will be interesting.  Isn’t it odd that warrants who don’t attend combat and combat support branch career course nor serve in ‘branch qualification’ tours still provided same aviation support to the combat troops in RVN as their commissioned contemporaries, whether it be with an UH-1, an LOH, a Mohawk, an 0-1, or an RU-21?  Aviation WO’s are eligible to fill cockpit seats in an Air Cavalry Troop without the privilege of attending Armor Advance Course.  Without advantage of MSC School, they still fly a pretty fair DUSTOFF mission.  Right.  CW4 Novosel?  How effective must effective aviation support be?”[12]

Major General Carl A. McNair, the first Director of Army Aviation as a Branch of the U.S. Army. McNair played a pivotal role in Army Aviation on its way to branchhood, both in peacetime and in war.

But the possibility of Centralization in the guise of Army Aviation as a branch was becoming more and more a reality.  Most certainly this was observed by Major General Carl H. McNair, Jr., in his 2007 article in Army Aviation:

“Evolving Warfare, New Requirements:  When the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) was formed and AirLand Battle doctrine evolved in the mid-1970s, reorganization of Army units brought a new perspective for fighting close, deep and rear battles.

“Doctrinal and force structure analyses coupled with major personnel considerations led to a pivotal organizational decision, a precursor and major driver leading to the Aviation Branch.

“An aviation brigade was made organic to each of the Army’s divisions.  Heretofore aviation brigades were organic only in the air assault (air mobile) division with three separate aviation groups organic to the corps in Europe and Korea.

“Divisional brigades were a giant step providing multiple aviation battalions both attack and assault, within a colonel-level command comparable to the infantry and armor brigades and division artillery.

“Today’s brigade commanders have never known it otherwise.

“Further, in some doctrinal scenarios, the aviation brigade could be employed as a fourth maneuver brigade headquarters with command and control of ground maneuver units in deep battle scenarios, rear area or flank security—again another first for an aviation unit.

“Division commanders welcomed the flexibility with another command and control element over the expansive area of operation envisioned in AirLand Battle doctrine.”[13]

But life does not advance in a straight line.  For, “in January 1979, Brigadier General W.E. Sweet, after another in-depth study, and with support from Putnam, recommended the formation of an aviation branch to General Bernard Rogers, then Army Chief of Staff.  Rogers met with all of the Army’s four-star generals and not a single one concurred for an aviation branch.

“In October 1982, during the Army Chief of Staff’s commanders’ conference, GEN Otis briefed the senior officers, not changing a single word in our recommendations.

“There was strong opposition led by generals Frederick J. Kroesen, Commander of U.S. Army, Europe; and Richard E. Cavazos, commanding General of the Army’s Forces Command.  The most outspoken opposition came from two retired generals:  Hamilton H. Howze, who retired in July 1965, and Robert M. Shoemaker, a former FORSCOM commander; both aviators.”[14]

General Hamilton H. Howze

General Hamilton H. Howze, first Director of Army Aviation. One of his largest contributions was to the acceptance of Army Aviation: He was Army Establishment, which lent to the acceptability of Army Aviation at a time it was needed.

“At Fort Benning, Major General Robert L. Wetzel, the commandant of the Infantry School, opposed the formation of an Aviation branch because he thought it important for some infantry officers to continue to be aviators.

“When asked what an infantry aviator had to do to be considered a fully qualified infantry captain, he said that they should successfully command a rifle company.  After some thought, he said there should be adequate opportunities to do that.

“When asked what an infantry lieutenant colonel aviator needed to do to be fully qualified; Wetzel reasoned that there would not be adequate opportunity for their command of an infantry battalion.  Wetzel concluded that an Aviation branch was probably the best solution.”[15]

“Not so at the Armor School at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  Major General Louis C. Wagner, the commandant, strongly opposed an Aviation branch.  One of his key points was that armor aviators frequently commanded reconnaissance squadrons and battalions.  He never wavered and fought the formation of an Aviation branch all the way.”[16]


[1]  See page 53, “Birth of the Army Aviation Branch, April 12, 1983,” Army Aviation, by Major General Carl H. McNair, Jr., (Ret.), December 31, 2007.

[2]  See page 10, “The Question of a Separate Branch,” Army Aviation, by Brigadier General William J. Maddox, Jr., July-August 1971.

[3]  See pages 10 and 11, Brigadier General William J. Maddox.

[4]  See pages 11, 60 and 61, “Aviation as a Branch,” Army Aviation, by Colonel Andrew J. Miller and Colonel James H. Kitterman, November 30, 1981.

[5]  See page 14, “It’s Time for an Aviation Branch,” Army Aviation, by Major Charles B. Cook, August-September 1981.

[6]  See page 14, Major Charles B. Cook.

[7]  Lieutenant Colonel Putnam’s analysis brings forth a pertinent point:  If, as he suggests, Army Aviation was founded on airmobility, then what is considered Army Aviation prior did not exist.  What was founded was the Air Observation Post, June 6, 1942.  The terminology, “Army Aviation,” does not appear within the narrative of the reputed “birth certificate.”  So what is actually considered Army Aviation did not truly become so until the early 1950s.

A like argument exists with regards to many of the uninitiated in this country labeling America a “Democracy.”  The Founders of this Nation were not fans of Democracy.  You will not find the term “Democracy” in the Constitution, attendant Bill of Rights or even The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America (Declaration of Independence).  This Nation was founded as a Republic, end of discussion.

[8]  See page 6, “Close Pandora’s Box,” Army Aviation, by Lieutenant Colonel (P) Carl M. Putnam, July-August 1975.

[9]  See page 25, “Pandora’s Box,” Army Aviation, by Colonel Samuel P. Kalagan, May 21, 1975.

[10]  See page 4, Lieutenant Colonel Carl M. Putnam.

[11]  See page 6, Colonel Samuel P. Kalagan.

[12]  See pages 6 and 26, Colonel Samuel P. Kalagan.

[13]  See pages 52 and 53, “Birth of the Army Aviation Branch. April 12, 1983,” Army Aviation, by Major General Carl H. McNair, Jr., (Ret.), December 31, 2007.

[14]  See page 33, “Dealing With the Aviation Branch Issue:  A Tough Sell to the Army,” Army Aviation, by Major General Benjamin I. Harrison, (Ret.), February 29, 2008.

[15]  See page 33, Major General Benjamin I. Harrison, (Ret.).

[16]  See page 33, Major General Benjamin I. Harrison, (Ret.).

UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, operated by soldiers of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment (MEDEVAC), Connecticut Army National Guard, takeoff at the Army Aviation Support Facility, Windsor Locks, Connecticut, Feb. 7, 2023. Soldiers from the 126th are deploying to the Central Command Area of Responsibility in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew Lucibello)

As a college athlete, standout student, and one of the first Army ROTC Cadets from Benedict College to branch aviation in over 30 years, Corey Witter knows he wouldn’t be where he is today without family.

After losing his mother to breast cancer at the age of 14, Witter’s older brother, Jahleel, stepped in as his legal guardian, giving Witter the assurance and guidance he needed to focus on accomplishing his goals and join the military.

“No matter what you go through there’s a lot you can do even with limited opportunities.” Witter said. “You have to make the most of what’s been handed to you and then go from there. It always works out.”

From the get-go, Witter’s family determined their strength would not be sidetracked by hardship – and they certainly experienced their fair share of obstacles.

Sandra, Witter’s mom, battled chronic illness her entire life, including diabetes, heart problems and kidney issues. She was unable to work because of her health limitations.

Seeking family support, Sandra moved herself and her two boys from Beaufort, South Carolina to Kansas in 2002 where her younger sister, the boys’ aunt, was located.

For nine years they lived together with their aunt’s family until her death in 2011.

“We moved back to Beaufort because my aunt passed away from breast cancer,” Witter said.

Mourning the loss of her sister, Sandra took a realistic look at her illness battles and knew a move back to Beaufort had to happen. It was a difficult transition for the boys, but they needed to be close to family.

“She’d be in and out of the hospital from all of the things she had, and she had so many different things going on health-wise,” Jahleel said.

It wasn’t long after their move home to Beaufort that the family received news that Sandra had breast cancer.

She began treatment immediately.

Witter, who was 12 at the time, remembers his mom’s positive outlook regarding the internal battle her body was fighting.

“Even though you could see she was sick, you would never know with how she acted,” Witter said. “She was probably one of the strongest people I have ever seen in my life as far as trying to be positive even when everything around you isn’t positive.”

Jahleel saw his mom’s strength as well, but being six years older and involved in her daily healthcare, he remembers a much different side of the story.

“She told me something along the lines of, ‘I’m not going to be here forever, so you’ve got to make sure that you look out for your brother. All of the things that you know, I need you to be able to do when I’m gone because you’re all I have and I want you to be there for your brother,’” Jahleel said.

As time progressed, Sandra’s cancer went terminal.

Witter recalls her continuously sunny outlook, even as time was running out.

“After she stopped chemo, we had to basically accept that it was going to happen. It wasn’t like when somebody all of the sudden passes away, this was different in that you knew it was coming for months in advance.”

Naturally quiet, Witter didn’t broadcast his emotions or allow others to know what was happening at home.

“When I was at school, I didn’t necessarily talk about anything that was going on,” Witter said. “Maybe one or two people knew, but nobody else really knew what was happening.”

Sandra Witter passed away October 30, 2014 with her boys at her side.

The boys were just 20 and 14-years-old.

Life happened quickly, and both boys had to step up to the plate.

Jahleel took on a full-time job and became Corey’s legal guardian.

“I told him I would do what I can to make sure everything was good, and that’s what I did,” Jahleel said.

“He focused on his grades and school, and I focused on taking care of everything.”

Witter seized this opportunity and threw himself into excelling in his studies and extracurricular activities. On top of being a straight-A student, he played football, basketball and track.

“I like being occupied. I’m not really the type of person that likes to sit around,” Witter said. “When I don’t do a lot, it just feels like something is missing or like I should be doing something else.”

While balancing his activities, Witter also began looking ahead to life after high school. The military was something he’d been interested in and was “always towards the top of the list” when it came to future careers.

His sophomore year, he tested the water by joining his high school’s Air Force JROTC program.

“I signed up just to see what it was like – like a test.” he said. “I stayed in because I ended up liking the structure and the vibe and it felt like it fit me.”

The program pushed Witter out of his reserved shell and presented leadership opportunities that continued to grow his interest in joining the military.

“He was always devoted to the goal. It’s one of the things that stands out even today. He’s more focused,” Jahleel said.

After graduating from Beaufort High School in 2018, Witter made the decision to attend Benedict College, a historically black college (HBCU), on a full academic scholarship. He also joined the school’s track team as a decathlete.

He focused on his studies and athletics until fate stepped in one morning during track practice.

Anthony Robertson is the Benedict College ROTC Coordinator, he’s also an Army ROTC alumnus of Benedict College. He noticed Witter and his teammates warming up and walked over to speak with them about the ROTC program.

“He came up to me and a couple other people one day, and I was listening, but it was going in one ear and out the other. I wasn’t really interested whatsoever,” Witter said.

Robertson confirms that Witter’s attention seemed elsewhere. But, to his surprise, Witter showed up outside his office a few weeks later.

“He said, ‘You’re in charge of ROTC?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I am,’ and he said, ‘I would like to join,’” Robertson recalls.

After meeting Robertson that morning on the track field, he was convinced ROTC wasn’t for him, but fate began to work their way into his daily life.

“I started thinking about what I was going to do after I graduated college and then I started seeing Cadets walking around campus in their uniforms,” Witter said.

He stopped some of the Cadets to talk about the program and their experiences.

“I just felt like it was a good opportunity; it would be stable income – a guaranteed job,” he said.

Witter found himself in Robertson’s office just days later signing up to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).

“The rest is history. He was serious, he was all the way locked in,” Robertson said. “He was a great athlete, he was a great student, his GPA was high, he was a Campus Cadet with the Campus Police Department, and so the bench point for greatness started right then.”

Witter cut his hair, enlisted in the Army National Guard, and took a semester off to attend Basic Advanced Individual Training.

Back from training and officially enrolled in Army ROTC, Witter began to look at his future options. Already a Criminal Justice major, he thought joining the Military Intelligence branch would partner well with his current studies…until he was introduced to helicopters.

“We had a brief on aviation that was really interesting and that changed my whole mindset about what I wanted to do,” Witter said.

Robertson also pushed Witter to think about pursuing the aviation branch and flying helicopters.

“I encouraged him to do some research on it, and I also encouraged him to research the percentage of African Americans who fly helicopters,” Robertson said.

Of the 144 Army ROTC Cadets who branched aviation and will commission this year, only six were African American.

After his research and decision to branch aviation, Witter began studying for the Selection Instrument for Flight Training (SIFT).

The SIFT is a measure of multiple aptitudes, focusing mainly on S.T.E.M.

The SIFT is the first hurdle Witter had to cross to qualify for aviation service. Weeks of studying led to the exam day, and then Witter had to wait.

“After studying and testing he came back with the highest score the ROTC program had ever seen,” Robertson said. “He did everything else right in the ROTC program, so he’s going aviation.”

“I knew Corey had what it takes to be great…He fits everything that embodies being a college student, an ROTC student, he serves in the national guard,” Robertson adds. “He’s a shining example, who I encourage students to pattern themselves behind.”

Witter’s future was confirmed this past fall when he was selected for aviation. He’ll be heading to Ft. Rucker, Alabama to learn how to fly Chinook helicopters after commissioning.

“There’s a lot of things you can do in military, but I feel like flying is one of the biggest things that you can do and it’s one of the greatest opportunities that I’ve seen so far and one of the most interesting,” he said.

Witter also finds the civilian career options for aviators appealing as he plans to one day fly airplanes for a major airline.

Even as Witter knocks out goals toward his future, his brother, Jahleel, is still very present in his life.

“He comes first that’s just how it is,” Jahleel said. “When I made the promise to my mom that I would take care of him, I meant that on all aspects of anything that I could possibly do to make things better or his life easier, it’s what I do.”

Witter took his brother’s promise to heart, and it resonates with him today, remaining a prime focus for his leadership intentions as a future officer in the Army.

“Him putting his life on pause, it was a really big sacrifice for me, and that’s what drives me,” Witter said. “I’m not an aggressive leader but having the experiences that I do – most people haven’t had their parents die – so carrying that with me will help me understand how to treat people and understand their experiences.”

Soldiers with Bravo Company, 2-10 Assault Helicopter Battalion, 10th combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division conducted a routine flight around Fort Drum, N.Y. on December 21, 2022. The UH60 Blackhawk has been in service since 1979. (U.S. Army Photos by Pfc. Kaylan Joseph)

FORT DRUM, N.Y – Maj. Tyler Smith of the Charlie Company, 3-10 General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade hosted medical personnel from Samaritan Medical Center on, Jan. 26, where they were able to have an in-depth discussion on the medical evacuation, or medevac, capabilities offered here on and off post.

Medical personnel included the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Andy Short, Medical Director of the Emergency Services Dr. Meja Gray and Chair of Emergency Medicine Sarah Delaney who were able to tour the facility, an HH-60M Black Hawk and a CH-47F Chinook.

The walk-through allowed each party to ask questions and make suggestions on how to better implement their services alongside their partners, LifeNet Health, who also serve the North Country when medevac services are necessary.

“It’s important to note that this is in conjunction with LifeNet,” said Smith. “We’re also providing the service to Soldiers and Family members of Fort Drum.”

This partnership between Samaritan, LifeNet and Fort Drum is vital to show that not only can services be provided here on the post, but they can also be called upon as an option when emergencies arise.

Staff Sgt. Casey Chandler, a flight medic who is also New York state certified as a paramedic, has been in position for over a year, also believes this relationship between Samaritan and Fort Drum is incredibly important.

“It’s hugely important for us to be able to help our community,” mentions Chandler. “help the North Country and be able to treat patients.”

By fostering these relationships, beginning with the walk-through, shows how prepared and well trained the Army medical personnel are when the mission arises. Not only with training but the 14 Black Hawks used for medevac operations outfitted with all-weather capabilities equipment. This means when the civilian helicopters cannot fly through the icy skies, Fort Drum personnel can, shared Smith.

“We are definitely prepared for that, we train for that constantly,” states Chandler. “To be able to perform in inclement weather conditions and perform any type of mission”

Gray, Delaney and Short were given the option to view the duty room, where flight personnel wait in receipt of the mission. They were then escorted to view and get inside of a Black Hawk while touring the available medical components to help patients and even view the inside of a Chinook, to showcase the option to move more than one evacuee at a time.

Not having an on-post hospital, where a lot of the mission would resemble patient transfers to facilities with higher level of care, means that being able to offer these services would be beneficial to the community and to our service members and their families, says Smith.

“This has given our emergency department physician leadership a chance to really understand what the capabilities are of the 10th CAB Medics,” said Short. “Give them a comfort level that when and if we need to call on them, that they’re in good hands and our physicians are comfortable with that.”

Having the 10th CAB MEDEVAC team showcase the capabilities to the physician leadership at Samaritan Medical Center is the steppingstone to building a strong partnership in the future.

“I hope it manifests in the nest time that there’s a service member, family member or DoD beneficiary that needs to be moved,” reflects Smith. “And all other resources have been exhausted that they think of us.”

Republic of Korea Army Lt. Gen. Ret. Chun, In-Bum sits in the door way of a HH-60M Blackhawk helicopter after receiving a capabilities brief of the medical evacuation capabilities of the aircraft. Members of Pyeongtaek International Exchange Foundation (PIEF) visits the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division as part of their visit to Camp Humphreys. The members of PIEF were given a capabilities brief of the UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47F Chinook helicopters. (U.S. Army Courtesy Photo by Sgt. First Class Joshua Threadgill)

U.S. Army air defenders from Charlie Battery, 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment completed sling load training at their forward-deployed site near the Black Sea on Jan. 25. They are deployed in support of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Romania.

“Having our Soldiers train on sling-load operations not only provides the commander some flexible employment options, but tactically it allows us to conduct some deep maneuver and air assault operations with the units that we are supporting,” said Capt. Nathan Jackson, the commander of Charlie Battery, 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

The unit practiced sling loading both the Avenger and the Sentinel A3 radar variant, which is one of the first times this has been done with the Sentinel in theater.

The Avenger weapon system is an all-terrain, all-weather air & missile defense system that is capable against rotary-wing, fixed-wing, unmanned aircraft, and cruise missiles while the Sentinel A3 provides early warning detection and identification of aerial threats.

Just days after the invasion began, Avenger short-range air defense Soldiers and equipment from 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment deployed to Romania to help assure our NATO Ally that we are committed to our obligations under Article 5, and to deter any potential acts of aggression against NATO by providing short-range air defense of Allied forces. Elements of 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment have maintained deployments in Romania, Slovakia, and Poland since early 2022.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for air defense soldiers to see this side of air assault operations, to be able to build/expand their toolkits with these capabilities. I received a lot of positive feedback from the Soldiers as this is something they don’t get to do every day, to help build these capabilities for our future operations,” said Jackson.

Charlie Battery was supported by a Chinook helicopter crew from Bravo Company, 2-501, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, who are also deployed to Romania as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

U.S. Army Europe and Africa has led the Department of Defense’s Atlantic Resolve land efforts by rotating units from CONUS to Europe since April, 2014. There are four types of U.S. Army Atlantic Resolve rotations – armored, aviation, sustainment task force, and division headquarters. Rotational units conduct bilateral, joint, and multinational training events across more than a dozen countries. Atlantic Resolve is funded by the European Deterrence Initiative, which enables the U.S. to enhance deterrence, increase readiness, and support NATO.

Looking Back / Army Aviation, February 2023; By Mark Albertson


Branchhood, By Mark Albertson

Part I: Technology, Command and Control

Army Aviation breaks friction with the ground, operates in the ground regime, and greatly enhances the capability of the force. . . [1]


The remarkable evolution of aerial observation, together with the aerial direction of artillery fire within the United States Army, began with the War Between the States and a military application known to history as the Balloon Corps. The suitable starting date is June 18, 1861, when Thaddeus Lowe lifted off from the Columbia Armory[2] and from the balloon basket of Enterprise, Lowe’s telegrapher transmitted the first electronic message from an aircraft in the air to the ground. And one of the recipients was President Abraham Lincoln, marking the sixteenth president as the first head-of-state in history to receive an electronic message from an aircraft in the air to the ground.

Following America’s first industrialized conflict, the Army will again resort to the lighter-than-aircraft during the Spanish-American War. But with the maturation of aerial observation and reconnaissance, as well as the growing sophistication of the aerial direction of artillery fire, the appearance of fixed wing aircraft and the exciting promise of its mobility, consigned the gas bag to history. Then came the advent of the Air Observation Post, June 6, 1942, laying the groundwork for what would later become Army Aviation; to which the growing reliance on the helicopter during the Korean conflict, advanced this evolving medium of conveyance to becoming an absolute necessity in Vietnam . . . all showcasing, in a clear and unmistakable horizontal progression of history, the developing sophistication of this military exercise known as Army Aviation.

Indeed, Army Aviation is the product of American invention, innovation and the specialization of tasks; the result, too, of the Industrial Revolution which, together with Man’s penchant for technological innovation, we find Army Aviation is alive and well in the era of the Technology Revolution. A progression that has stimulated the specialization of tasks in the modern era.

L-4 Cub aboard and LST carrier during World War II.  Top flight technology for the Air Observation Post.

The profession of arms, as is seen in many other professions in the American economy, society and culture, has, thus far, not proven itself immune to the globe-changing continuum known as the Technology Revolution. The profession of war, again like other professions, has become less labor-intensive. Gone, too, are the days when the backyard mechanic, able to repair his ’36 Ford, could easily perform in-theater servicing of a Piper L-4 Cub; a hallmark of the pre-Army Aviation era of the Air Observation Post of the Field Artillery.

On the heels of the 1914-1918 chapter of the Great War and the interregnum period that followed till the resumption of the global conflict, the evolving nature of the strategic bomber proceeded apace; as did the specialization of tasks concerning those airmen who flew, repaired and directed this increasingly sophisticated aspect of modern war. To the point that the science of airpower had become too sophisticated to be properly administered by officers specifically trained and educated to prosecute a ground war. Hence, in 1947, the United States Army Air Forces became the United States Air Force, consummating a divorce long sought by the proponents of strategic airpower.

AH-1G Huey Cobra, providing Army Aviation the ability to provide support for the soldier on the ground.

Army Aviation, too, was not exempt from the natural laws of change. The Air Observation Post commanded by Colonel, then later General William Wallace Ford, minus the proponents of same, remaining oblivious to the strategic, tactical and material changes following 1945 and into the Korean War, set in motion a continuum that would culminate in branchhood by April 12, 1983. Take, for instance, a standalone issue such as technological changes. In less than ten years, compare the Sikorsky helicopter effort from the R-4 eggbeater to the H-19 Chickasaw used in Korea; to, in the following fifteen years, the Bell UH-1 Huey and later the Cobra attack helicopter in Vietnam; followed in the post-Vietnam era with the UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache. Not many Black Hawk and Apache technicians were fixing their ’36 Fords in the family driveways.[3] The training and schooling today is beyond what was required to prepare the Class Before One. Such is Man’s tendency to improve, but which increases, many times, the sophistication of the task in question. Branchhood, then, was that result of a progression started on June 6, 1942 and, became more evident as the decades came and went. And so by the 1970s at the latest, the jury to some might have been out, but reality dictated a verdict that had already been delivered . . . it was just a matter of time, despite the pronouncements of naysayers, that branchhood was coming; verifying, indeed, that the progression of history is always fulfilled. . .

* * * * *

“. . . tools, or weapons, if only the right ones can be discovered, form ninety-nine percent of victory. . . . Strategy, command, leadership, courage, discipline, supply, organization, and all the moral and physical paraphernalia of war are as nothing to a high superiority of weapons—at most they go to form the one percent which makes the whole possible.”[4] There is certainly truth in what J.F.C. Fuller writes here. For instance, the technology or major tool for the existence and success for the Air Observation Post of the Field Artillery was the grasshopper-type aircraft. For Army Aviation it was the helicopter. This course was made easier when the Air Force, deciding to maintain strategic airpower in the nuclear era as its justification for existence, did not pay the proper regard for slow, rotary wing aircraft, since strategic airpower necessitated the constant improvement on aircraft for the implementation of that way of waging war: In other words, each new mark of aircraft had to fly faster, higher, haul greater payloads and be equipped with the latest technological marvels. In this, the argument can be made, that airmen are not specifically trained to wage ground warfare. Ground officers are trained to wage ground warfare, and enough of them understood the significance of the employment of the helicopter for superior battlefield mobility so as to be able to defeat an opposing host.


[1] See page 51, “Army Aviation in 1983-1992” The Modern Era Arrives,” Army Aviation, by Joseph Cribbins, December 31, 1992.

[2] Which today is the National Air and Space Museum.

[3] Used to be the simplicity of fixing your car was part of the attraction. For back in the day, you could open the hood and still see the street below. You could change the points and plugs and, grab hold of the oil filter, all without busting a knuckle, as well as removing the manifold of an engine block. Ever open the hood of your car today?

[4] See pages 65 and 66, Chapter 4, “Helicopter technology: Political Imperative or Opportunity?” The Army Gets an Air Force, by Frederic A. Bergerson.

Looking Back / Army Aviation, January 2023; By Mark Albertson


Branch Update, By Major General Ronald E. Adams

Women in Aviation: Celebrating the Past, Building the Future

The U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center hosted a Women in Army Aviation Symposium in Late February. Over 90 aviation soldiers of both genders and all ranks traveled to the conference representing DOD-wide backgrounds and experiences. The goal of our symposium was twofold: First, to recognize and celebrate women’s 21 years of service within Army Aviation and second, to identify and discuss current “gender issues” within the branch.

There are differing, sometimes contentious, opinions as to the value of highlighting one gender within a two-gender military. But at the same time, it is almost universally admitted that there are fundamental differences between the genders that may affect the way we do business. In that light, the symposium’s intent was to encourage open, fair discussion of how the branch as a whole can best address these challenges.

Sally Murphy

Women have now served in Army Aviation for more than 21 years. The first female pilot, 2LT Sally D. Woolfolk (now Colonel Sally Murphy) graduated from the rotary wing aviator course in June 1974. Females were serving as enlisted maintainers with the graduation of Private Linda Plock in February 1974 and were integrated into the Aviation warrant officer corps in June 1975 with the graduation of WO1 Jennie Vallance, Jr. As women began to attend and graduate from these aviation schools, they began serving in all capacities within the branch, except for attack, cavalry and special operations.

Almost 20 years later, in 1993, congressional legislation opened the door for women to fly attack aircraft and serve in those units as both pilots and maintainers. Further legislation in 1994 allowed women to serve in air cavalry line troops. A steady number of women have since graduated from the AH-64, OH-58D and AH-1 courses at Fort Rucker, constantly adding to the number of women in the attack/cav arena. Women have served in and have commanded both attack and cavalry units; they have flown in combat. They have been recognized as superb commanders and NCOs, award-winning aviators, and outstanding officers and soldiers.

While celebration was the initial order of business, the symposium also offered a rare opportunity for several generations of female soldiers and officers to discuss the challenges of a career in Army Aviation, and initiate mentoring-type discussions.

USAAVNC took this opportunity to stimulate discussion and to disseminate information. I opened the agenda with a branch overview and discussion of where women are serving within the branch today, and was followed by many superb speakers, to include BG Patricia Hickerson who chaired a dynamic, multi-media presentation of various recruiting efforts of yesterday and today.

Lieutenant Colonels Joe and Maureen Lebouef from the United States Military Academy presented a fast-paced, interactive discussion of gender differences, both behavioral and physical. They demonstrated some fundamental differences between men and women and the resulting cultural effects. Men and women often see the same situation differently. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but often challenging to acknowledge and appreciate.

The symposium audience was also brought up to date on the “Washington Perspective” by LTC Karen McManus. As the Pentagon’s Woman in the Army Representative (as well as an aviator), she provided an update of trends that are affecting women in today’s military.

patricia fleming

Presentations by the Aviation Research Laboratory (USAARL) provided a much anticipated forum for discussion of anthropometry (body measurements) and how this affects cockpit coordination, skills and safety. Ongoing studies are validating these standards, and may result in changes. The Aeromedical Center and USAARL participants also addressed the current pregnancy policy and research demonstrating the effects of the aviation environment on the developing embryo. They also examined the relatively new issue of the “aging” female aviator; how are health and flight skills affected versus the traditional male standard?

One of the main objectives of the symposium was accomplished by establishing work groups to discuss gender issues as they affect the entire branch, not just the female soldiers. The work groups were chaired by professional military facilitators and subject matter experts. These “group leaders” ensured that group discussion was oriented toward illuminating appropriate branch-wide issues, rather than recounting purely personal experiences.

Within this framework, the work groups identified issues which the Aviation Center Team is already working—issues briefed at our NCO symposium at our Brigade Commander VTC update.

The work group out-briefs provided impressive snapshots of the intended symposium goals: professional women sincerely presenting their best effort at making Aviation a stronger, more cohesive branch.

The representatives at the conference collectively represented a strong, dynamic female population that takes their role as part of the Aviation warfighting team very seriously. They are out front, and are willing to help lead us to a better future. We can all be tremendously proud of their contributions to our nation, our Army and to Army Aviation.


MG Adams is the Aviation Branch Chief and Commanding General, USAAVNC and Ft. Rucker, AL., and Commandant, U.S. Army Aviation Logistics School, Ft. Eustis, VA.


Source:  Pages 9 and 10, “Women in Aviation:  Celebrating the Past, Building the Future,” by Major General Ronald E. Adams, Army Aviation, Vol. 45, No. 6, Army Aviation Publications, Inc., Westport, Ct., June 30, 1996.