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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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 was formed.”
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:
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:
JOHN A. WICKHAM, JR.
General, United States Army,
Chief of Staff
ROBERT M. JOYCE
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.
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.
* 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.
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.
 “Meyer—EC-U.S. Army,” Army Center of Military History. History.army.mil/books/CG&CSA/Meyer-EC.htm
 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.
 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.
 See page 35, Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.).
 See page 35, Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.).
 TRADOC Review of Army Aviation.
 See page 35, Colonel Ernest F. Estes, (Ret.).
 Refer to GENERAL ORDERS No. 6, HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, Washington, D.C., 15 February 1984, ARMY AVIATION BRANCH, effective 12 April 1983.
 See pages 8 and 9, “Fundamental Truths of Airpower,” William “Billy” Mitchell’s Air Power, by Lieutenant Colonel Johnny R. Jones, USAF.
 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.