Reserve / By COL J. Ray Davis: “I think this is one of the best multi-compo initiatives EVER. And we should do whatever we can to ensure the same manning for 3ID CAB. Matt (Strub) has been instrumental as a DCO and has significatly helped bring the COMPO 2/3 units into the team.”
– COL John Cyrulik, Commander 1/D CAB Task Force Victory
While providing an overview of ARNG Aviation to the Battalion and Brigade Aviation Pre-Command Course at Fort Rucker in the fall of 2015, I was approached by COL John Cyrulik, the incoming commander of the 1st Infantry Division’s (ID) Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB). He stated that he needed a deputy commanding officer (DCO) for an upcoming deployment and wanted to know if the ARNG would be interested.
The DCO is a critical position within the command structure of an aviation brigade task force. Although not usually found on conventional MTOEs, the Aviation brigade DCO position is an Area of Responsibility (AOR)-specific authorized billet for deploying Aviation task forces. The position provides additional command structure depth and capacity to help manage the known or expected complexities in the AOR. Those complexities may include a combination of challenges such as split-base stationing, vast areas of operation, coalition allies, government contractors, and interagency partners.
COL Cyrulik’s request fit the Director of the Army National Guard (DARNG) Leader Development Strategic Line of Effort nicely and Task Force Victory would be a multi- component force, task organized with RC units that included 1 ARNG GSAB company, 1 USAR GSAB company, and 1 ARNG MEDEVAC company. And so began the trail- blazing process to assign the first Army National Guardsman as DCO for an Active Component (AC) aviation brigade. The AC soon reciprocated by sourcing an active duty officer to serve as DCO of a deploying ARNG ECAB. Then it was the ARNG’s turn again. The AC and the ARNG are now in a battle rhythm of deploying multi component commanding officer – deputy commanding officer teams to lead multi component aviation brigade task forces.
To date, three multi component Aviation DCOs have been assigned; two ARNG officers as DCOs to AC brigades, and one an AC officer as DCO to an ARNG brigade. One is mission complete, and two are in-process.
- LTC Matthew Strub from the Wisconsin ARNG served as DCO for the 1ID CAB Task Force, commanded by COL John Cyrulik, during Operation Freedom Sentinel (OFS) 16.2. Mission complete.
- LTC Aaron McPeake, an active duty officer from 1ID CAB, is presently in theater serving as DCO for 29th ECAB, commanded by Maryland Guardsman COL Mark Beckler, in support of Operation Spartan Shield (OSS).
- LTC John Mcelveen, a South Carolina Guardsman, is currently serving as DCO for the 3ID CAB Task Force, commanded by COL Mark Johnson, and scheduled to deploy in August in support of OFS.
The current structure and uniqueness of the Army components is such that simply creating an Army Total Force Policy (ATFP) does not automatically translate into an actionable strategy. Leaders from all components must take the spirit and intent of ATFP, work together to develop and test actual methods, and then codify at the appropriate level those that prove successful. Aviation multi-component DCOs are thus far proving to enhance pre-deployment integration, deployed operations, and serve as component-specific cultural advisors and translators of sorts to the commander, staff and subordinate units. Further, this assignment experience grooms the officer for future command or leadership positions within the Total Army.
To move across the gap between policy and execution, strong consideration should be given to codify the Aviation Multi-Component DCO Initiative at the FORSCOM level as the new rubric for deploying multi-component Aviation brigade task forces.
Fly Army. Fly Guard.
COL J. Ray Davis is the chief of the Army National Guard Aviation and Safety Division located in Arlington, VA.
29th Combat Aviation Brigade Commander COL Mark Beckler (left) and LTC Aaron McPeake, 29th CAB Deputy Commanding Officer (DCO), stand in front of the 29th CAB tactical command post at Taji Military Complex, Iraq, July 15, 2017. Prior to becoming the 29th CAB’s DCO, McPeake served as a battalion commander for the 601st Aviation Support Battalion in the First Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas./ ARMY NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO BY CPT STEPHEN JAMES
“Ray (Davis), I think this is one of the best multi-compo initiatives EVER. And we should do whatever we can to ensure the same manning for 3ID CAB. Matt (Strub) has been instrumental as a DCO and has significatly helped bring the COMPO 2/3 units into the team.”
– COL John Cyrulik,
Commander 1/D CAB Task Force Victory