In May or June after the Summit each year, the National Executive Group gathers at the Connecticut AAAA National
Office to review and assess our organization’s posture and status, and to discuss and chart the next couple of years
activities and initiatives.

The NEG consists of four elected officers: me as president, MG (Ret.) Wally Golden as senior vice president, BG (Ret.)
Tim Edens as treasurer and MG (Ret.) Todd Royar as secretary. It also includes our two appointed vice presidents – CW4
(Ret.) Becki Chambers, VP for membership, and LTC (Ret.) Jan Drabczuk, VP for chapters.

This year after Becki and Jan briefed membership and chapter programs and initiatives, the four elected officers
focused on the review and assessment of the AAAA national business model. Specifically, we reviewed the membership
dues structure (which has not changed since 1998, in either corporate or individual member dues), AAAA national event
topics, and our event/forum registration policies and fees for both exhibitors and individuals.

The good news is that the AAAA is in the strongest position it has ever been in terms of membership (which is at an all-
time high of over 21,000) and fiscal position (currently have net assets financially at a record level). That said,
questioning what our future organizational vulnerabilities could be, and discussing what efforts and programs were
required to ensure we ‘survive and thrive’ organizationally, help bound our focus and energy during the review.

First, although our Annual Summit has grown substantially over the years, the inflation in vendor costs, especially since
COVID, has outpaced our increased exhibit sales. Our smaller events (Aviation Survivability, Luther Jones, and Cribbins)
are losing money; the positive Annual Summit net revenue each year is what solely underwrites all the other shortfalls in
membership dues and smaller-event net revenues.

The vulnerability here is that if we must cancel another Summit (or two… as occurred during COVID), we have to
ensure our Emergency Fund is robust enough to sustain the organization for two straight years, without any Summit
income/revenue. We are currently at $4.6M on the way to the ceiling of $7.01M in the Emergency Fund that will be
required to meet the two-year self-sustaining goal. And yes, we do in fact still have event cancellation Insurance (those
policies yielded over $6M in total to AAAA for the cancelled 2020 and 2021 Summits), but now those policies going
forward specifically exclude any ‘pandemic’ coverage, which is no longer available to any organization.

In a comparative analysis, we assessed like/similar military organizations and associations to determine how AAAA fit
and compared; it did not take much to figure out that even just considering inflation since 1998, we had some further work
and analysis to do. We certainly don’t have all the answers yet but are working them… and we will propose a plan to the
full National Executive Board at the November meeting in Huntsville. Likewise, we assessed where we stood regarding
exhibitor fees and policies, and we will be recommending some changes there as well.

Although we are enjoying record-setting metrics now, our assessment is that we have to pivot from our financial
dependance on one positive revenue event, the AAAA Annual Summit. We must ensure that our great organization is
protected long into the future, and to continue to provide world class support to you all, our Army Aviation Soldiers and
Families, no matter what.

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA

To all our members, it is so great to be back to the business of executing AAAA presidential duties after addressing a
pesky medical issue for the past few months. So much so, that I had the honor and privilege of attending a day (May 30) of
the ARSOAC and 160th SOAR activities at Fort Campbell, KY, which included a special and impactful Memorial Service
where they honor their fallen. Many thanks to BG Wilkenson and COL Waleski for having me be among their amazing
community of Night Stalkers… and for the opportunity to induct Mr. Steve Blasey into the Gold Order of Saint Michael.
Steve is a true patriot, who has given 40 years of selfless service to our Army, Army Aviation, and most especially to Special
Operations Aviation. A great way to get back to business!

With that, I have asked our Senior VP, MG Wally Golden, Ret., who so capably and professionally executed the 2024
Denver AAAA Annual Summit, to provide our members with a brief report on how things went. I want to personally
thank him for his efforts, and of course for the efforts of Bill Harris and Janis Arena and the entire AAAA professional
staff, for their incredible planning and execution of the Summit. Wally, I owe you a Cribbins or a Summit in 2025/26!!!

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA

Mr. President, I am happy to report that the 2024 AAAA Annual Summit was an outstanding success in the face of some
pretty significant challenges. The mitigating actions that our team put together to avoid the experiences of other large
military associations in the Gaylord Rockies all worked!

Those actions included a very well-run busing system, increased exhibit space in a large heated and airconditioned tent
on the concrete apron adjoining the main exhibit hall, food trucks to augment the building’s food outlets, an amped up
registration process, and increased police security and parking lot management.

Never once was there any backed up traffic and we never maxed out the available parking thanks to our attendees who
heeded our pre-event instructions and used the bus system to and from the 22 overflow hotels and the Gaylord Rockies.

I sat in all the meetings with the hotel management and staff with our team and the coordination was impressive.

GEN Laura Richardson gave a landmark Keynote that hit all the key points from the cancellation of Future Attack
Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, (UAS) and the way ahead for Army Aviation.

Although unable to attend at the last minute, the Honorable Gabe Camarillo, Under Secretary of the Army, sent a video
message that spelled out the DA vision for the future and rationale for cancelling FARA.

LTG Mary Izaguirre, Surgeon General of the Army was truly outstanding in her presentation on the realities of what we
face in near peer Large Scale Combat Operations in terms of casualty evacuation and forward medical treatment.

The Hall of Fame Induction Dinner was one of the high points as usual. I could not have been more proud to see two of
our foremost Aviation leaders, the former Chief of Staff U.S. Army, GEN Jim McConville, along with MG Jeff Schloesser,
be inducted. The heartfelt remarks by Viet Nam veterans, 2024 inductee CPT (Ret.) Ronald A. Radcliffe, and former CW2
J.O. Ratliff who represented 2024 inductee the late CPT Larry A. Taylor, Medal of Honor recipient, as his co-pilot for that
action, left us all in awe of their resilience, courage, and infectious enthusiasm for their times as Army Aviators.

The only downside I saw was the construction delay that prevented the large atrium at the Rockies Hotel from being open
during our event, but as usual our Army Aviators adapted and still had a great time.

Special thanks to our Branch Chief, MG Mac McCurry, who was with us all the way with his team and all the Aviation
GOSC members.

Finally, I want you to know that the selections for the AAAA President’s Award and the AAAA Soldier and Family
Award at the final concert could not have been better received. GEN J.D. Thurman was recognized for his decades of
support, vision, and guidance to the Army Aviation Branch. And Sadie and MG Mac McCurry got a well-deserved
standing ovation as they accepted the Soldier and Family award. From the looks on their faces, I am quite sure they were
all surprised!

Walt, you were missed for sure… especially by me. I look forward to a much more relaxing event next year at the
Nashville Opryland May 14-16 while I watch you run the show. With that, I will just say, “You have the Controls!”

Above the best.

MG Wally Golden, Ret.
Editor’s Note: for a photo wrap-up of the 2024 Summit see pages 48-57.

Welcome everyone to the 2024 AAAA Annual Mission Solution Summit!

Our Branch Chief, MG Mac McCurry, and the entire Army Aviation Leadership will be bringing you all up to date on everything from training and operations, to acquisition and sustainment, special operations, Reserve and National Guard priorities and so much more all under the theme “Transforming Aviation Warfighting – Strengthening Our Sacred Trust.”

It is with great regret that I’ve had to ‘take a knee’ due to a medical condition, and as a result am unable to attend and participate in what I know will be an incredible Mission Solutions Summit. For sure though, our entire Aviation Community is in great hands… as you will see our AAAA Senior Vice President, MG (Ret.) Wally Golden, at the Gaylord Rockies podium leading our great organization and the incredible program of scheduled activities.

We had much welcomed last-minute news that our Under Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Gabe Camarillo, will be opening our Summit to provide the vision for the future of the Army, and indeed our Aviation Branch. Additionally, we are honored to have and grateful for our most senior Army Aviators, GEN Laura Richardson, Commander, U.S. Southern Command who will be our keynote on Thursday, and GEN Dan Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, as our featured speaker on Friday. To have that level of leadership presence, commitment, and participation is so valued by our entire community… and it speaks volumes about the importance of our Branch to the Army, and the importance of AAAA to serve as a catalyst and enabler for the gathering of entire Army Aviation Community.

Building on our “Four Pillars” of actualizing our mission statement to Support the Army Aviation Soldier and Family, the Summit also provides our greatest annual opportunity for realizing those Pillars – Networking, Recognition, Voice, and Support. From interacting with our Industry Partners to attending the Hall of Fame inductions and award ceremonies honoring our best and brightest, to celebrating the 50th Anniversary of our first female Army Aviator, COL Sally Murphy, Ret., graduating Flight School, to the closing concert with Randy Houser, this truly is the premier Army Aviation Family gathering.

And always positive news, since our last AAAA publication, we have set another milestone… breaking through to over 20,000 members! This equals our previous pre-COVID all-time; with our current rate of membership increase it would not surprise me at all if we exceed our record very soon. Also want to give a big thanks to GEN (Ret.) J.D. Thurman and the other members of our Senior Executive Associates, for their enduring support and leadership. They met in Huntsville last month just before the AUSA Global Force Symposium with our Aviation General Officer Steering Committee to again dialogue about the critical Aviation Branch priorities and challenges to determine how best to support our Army and Branch through their advocacy. And finally, many thanks to LTC (Ret.) Josh Baker, Chair of our Legislative Affairs Committee, and Bill Harris who are diligently working to get the AAAA-sponsored Army Aviation Caucus next meeting scheduled, and to make sure your voices continue to be heard at the highest decision-making levels.

Hope you all have a productive and FUN Mission Solutions Summit! Know for sure that AAAA will always be there for you, “Supporting the U.S. Army Aviation Soldier and Family”.
Above the Best!

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA

It is hard to believe that another month has flown by. As you read this, we will have convened a meeting with the National Executive Group and our committee chairs to review several areas, importantly our efforts at developing an organizational strategic plan, and to set expectations for the upcoming National Executive Board meeting in April at the Summit. More to follow, but please check the AAAA website to make sure you know who the committee chairs are and get your issues to them; they are your conduit to each mission area from membership to awards, and Hall of Fame to Reserve Component affairs…and we value all feedback, recommendations, and issues you may have.

Next, you all by now have heard the very important news of Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program termination, and the intended investment in a UH-60M multi-year contract, further CH-47F Block II production, and a strong commitment to the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System, along with other unmanned systems and launched effects. While the FARA termination is certainly an impact to what was a priority required aviation capability, we can only move forward positively in support of these decisions that still ensure we are providing an indispensable Aviation capability in support of our Army. For sure we will hear much more about all of this during the excellent programs, panels, and presentations that are on the upcoming AAAA Annual Summit agenda in Denver next month.

And speaking of the Summit. We have received numerous cards and letters about a recent event hosted by another large military association at the same hotel, The Gaylord Rockies, where we will be conducting our Summit.
Fortunately, we had already sent our event Team to observe the other group’s meeting to assess and address potential issues and impacts for the conduct of our Summit. Led by AAAA Meeting Director, Rebecca Sadegh, together with Art Agnew and Marian Spencer, they put together an extensive AAR with lessons learned for the event and mitigating actions. Some of the key takeaways that you all should be aware of include:

The other group experienced a very difficult parking and arrival situation daily, with limited alternative bus service. While we do not expect the amount of local drive-in traffic they experienced, we had already planned for a much more extensive bus system, literally 600% the size they used, servicing all of our twenty-one official overflow hotels. In addition, local police departments are working on a new traffic flow pattern into the Gaylord Rockies, to avoid the extended traffic back-ups that the other group experienced. We will also have access to additional parking capacity that the other group did not have.

Next, we are starting our professional programs each day much later than we have done at previous Summits. Specifically, we will start each day at 10:00 a.m., or later, and have pushed the program one day forward to begin on Wednesday, thus allowing time for attendees to gather beyond the morning ‘crush.’

We have also adjusted food and beverage availability and opportunity, to include food trucks, to accommodate our planned attendance, which is currently about 15-20% above our all-time high registration in 2023.
And finally, we will be using a larger ballroom than the other group did for the important General Sessions, to ensure we can accommodate our larger attendance.

The bottom-line is that thanks to your enduring support, we have grown our Annual Summit substantially over the past five years since this event venue was scheduled and contracted for and we are taking every conceivable step to make sure that we can provide an outstanding, safe, and enjoyable Summit for you and your families.

There is a lot going on in our Army, and especially in our Army Aviation Branch. We could not have a more dedicated, invested, and capable Army Aviation Leadership Team and we truly look forward to working with them and you together at the Summit and beyond, to ensure we know how best to support our U.S. Army Aviation Soldier and Family!
Look forward to seeing you all in Denver!

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA

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 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!

Register for the Annual Summit

MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA

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.”

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

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