The Annual Summit in Denver will be barely 90 days away by the time you read this. Incredible! We hope that everyone
had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s holiday; really looking forward to the year ahead and the great work that your
Association will do in support of our Aviation family.
Bill Harris and I had the privilege of travelling to Lubbock, Texas after Thanksgiving to join the leadership of the Vietnam
Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) Legacy Committee to see how our Association might best support them in the future,
as it plans its inevitable ‘sunset.’ Art Jacobs and Don LeMaster are the leads for the VHPA; Bill and I were totally impressed
with their vision for the future of VHPA. Importantly, they are completing their Strategic Plan that will inform the execution of
the myriad tasks and actions that the transition will require, ranging from event planning to publication and membership
servicing. Art and Don have also established a strong relationship/partnership with the Vietnam Center and Archive (VNCA),
located on the Lubbock campus of Texas Tech University. We honestly had no idea how extensive the VNCA collection is
and how deep the expertise is that resides there. The VHPA will be leaving all their records and documents to the VNCA and
have already been coordinating with the VNCA for some years. Their decision to get into a relationship with VNCA to
maintain their legacy records could not have been more well placed. Check out the VNCA website at
www.vietnamwarlegacy.ttu.edu for a quick overview of the breadth of their capabilities and plans for the future.
AAAA has also been a beneficiary of the VHPA’s support and generosity. The VHPA was the very first “Heritage
Matching Fund” scholarship established by the AAAA Scholarship Foundation Inc., in 2002 with a donation of $10,000.
Since that time, the VHPA has donated almost $500,000, which this year supported 18 scholarship awards to deserving
students in our merit-based program. We at AAAA look forward to continuing to develop our relationship with the VHPA to
best support them into the future ensuring that their story and legacy is never forgotten. I conveyed to them on behalf of
our 19,600 members, that AAAA will do whatever it can to carry on the traditions, memory, and spirit that the first “Sky
Soldiers” pioneered during their Vietnam War service. We owe them nothing less.
On December 6th, we concluded our 18th Luther G. Jones Army Aviation Depot Forum. This year’s theme was Corpus
Christi Army Depot – Integral to Aviation Readiness Today and Into the Future. Our thanks to COL Kyle Hogan, SGM Jon
Trawick and the CCAD team for their exceptional support and sponsorship of this ‘small, but mighty’ impactful forum. Also, to
MG Tom O’Connor, Commanding General, AMCOM, CW5 Pat O’Neil, our Aviation Branch Maintenance Officer, and CSM
Bradford Smith, AMCOM CSM, for their enduring support and presence during the entirety of the program – for sure, that
makes a difference for the attendees, industry partner exhibitors, and forum sponsors. CCAD is a national treasure and the
artisan workforce that comprises it is truly indicative of the strength of our Army and Nation.
As I mentioned at the start, we are rapidly closing on the Annual Summit. We will have updates in this space and
through emails regarding the Denver Gaylord Rockies itself, as well as the professional and social agendas as they
inevitably evolve over the next couple of months.
Please take note – the deadline for registration for all food events is April 4, 2024. You may continue to register after that
but there will be no tickets available for any of the food events such as the Hall of Fame and the Soldier Appreciation Dinner
concert. You are going to want to be at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – with inductees including two Medal of Honor
recipients and a certain former Army Chief of Staff. Added bonus – the entertainer for the Soldier Appreciation Dinner
Concert is Randy Houser… so, get your tickets now!
MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
CONCORD, NH, UNITED STATES
Story by Staff Sgt. Courtney Rorick
114th Public Affairs Detachment
After receiving intel of a potential Iranian attack on Al Asad Air Base, in western Iraq, Capt. Brendan Meehan began calling units from the operations tent, warning them to seek shelter.
In the early morning hours of Jan 8, 2020, Iran sent a barrage of 22 missiles targeted at coalition headquarters in Al Asad and Erbil Air Base in northern Iraq, in response to the U.S. assassination of Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani.
A missile struck only 100-yards from Meehan’s location, causing a 500-yard shockwave and sending shrapnel and debris thousands of feet throughout the radius.
The blast threw him 15-feet.
“I was compressed into a spring, thrown, tumbled, then hit my back,” described Meehan. “I looked down and there was this big fire ball of smoke. Things were crackling and my first thought was that they blew up the ops tent.”
Meehan assessed his injuries, rolled over, and attempted to move.
“I couldn’t get up,” said Meehan. “I began crawling to the nearest bunker.”
Once he got inside, after a long pause, Meehan heard a faint “Sir, are you okay?”
After a little while longer, Meehan regained his bearing enough to navigate back and forth between two bunkers, located approximately 50-yards apart. Bouncing between the two, Meehan continued to check on troops inside.
He said an onslaught of multiple missiles ensued following the initial strike.
“The ground moved,” Meehan said. “It felt like tremors. I’ve never felt anything like it. They came down the runway, one by one.”
“I originally placed my team in a bunker located 10-feet from a hangar by the airfield,” said Meehan. “I ended up moving them because it was too far away from my location; I needed better command and control.”
The vacated bunker was later found filled and peppered by shrapnel.
His decision was live-saving. Meehan, a pilot with Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment (MEDEVAC), New Hampshire Army National Guard, was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor for his steadfast thinking, helping to save the lives of nine Soldiers.
While no U.S. Troops were killed in the attack, Meehan said the base was destroyed. The unit lost aircraft, buildings, and various equipment, leaving them temporarily inoperable.
Three days following the attack, Meehan realized the true severity of his team’s injuries and called one of the flight doctors located nearby to assess.
Each soldier was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Although he didn’t feel well himself, Meehan focused on his team’s well-being. Meehan had to be ordered to seek medical care.
“He said, ‘When are you going to get seen? You’re not okay,’” described Meehan. “I wanted to set the example, so I got checked out. It was the right thing to do.”
It was only 10 minutes into the assessment when the doctor told Meehan he needed further evaluation.
“That’s when the symptoms really crashed in,” Meehan said. “It was debilitating; I felt like the world was spinning.”
“I couldn’t look at screens,” he added. “I had major headaches.”
Meehan recalled how he would have to lay on the floor just to be “okay.”
“My neck was so locked up at one point because my brain was trying to perceive the world correctly, which caused everything to seize up,” said Meehan.
While Meehan awaited his replacement, he continued to push through the injury placing the mission first and getting the MEDEVAC team operational.
On February 7, Meehan was evacuated to a military medical facility, in Landstuhl, Germany, for further assessment.
“Unfortunately, due to my condition, they determined I needed immediate relocation to Walter Reed (National Medical Center),” said Meehan, who arrived there on February 13.
During multiple evaluations, doctors told Meehan he would never fly again.
“I was told, ‘you know, you really should be looking for other jobs outside of aviation,’” said Meehan. “Or, ‘you should be on this medication so you can get better.’”
Meehan made the decision to refuse any medication treatment; he didn’t want his brain to develop a reliance on a prescription to function normally.
“This is my life,” said Meehan. “I felt like I was being told to recreate my sense of self, which is something I wasn’t willing to do until I exercised all other option.”
“This would have grounded me indefinitely and any hope of flying again would be in jeopardy,” said Meehan. “I wasn’t willing to give up that easily.”
On May 7, nearly four months after the attack, Meehan was awarded the Purple Heart, presented by Gen. James McConville, 40th Chief of Staff of the Army.
Amidst the recognition for his wounds, Meehan recognized within himself that his symptoms were worsening. He made the decision to seek alternative treatment plans and pursue other options.
“He always kind of down-played how serious everything was because he didn’t want anyone to feel bad,” said retired Sgt. First Class Rodney Anderson, an operations non-commissioned officer with 54th Troop Command at the time.
Anderson, who was also Meehan’s first platoon sergeant, was informed of the decision to leave the hospital and arrived at Walter Reed with fellow aviators to bring him back to the Granite State.
Upon arriving home to New Hampshire, Meehan began exploring other forms of care. After an exhaustive search, Dr. Victor Pedro, the chief innovation officer at the International Institute for the Brain in Manhattan, New York, accepted his case.
“I will never forget the day I met Brendan,” said Pedro as he recounted the moment during a phone interview. “I first met his dad.”
“His dad came in with him and I remember I was looking up at him,” said Pedro of the vast height difference between himself and Meehan’s father. “He put his hands on my shoulders and said ‘you’ve got to get my son better. You’ve got to get him flying again… please.’”
“As a dad, as a father of four, I just understood,” added Pedro, who choked up as he recalled the events.
When describing the most challenging part of the recovery process, Pedro said the impact from a traumatic brain injury can become more severe the longer it’s left untreated. Unfortunately, Meehan was a victim to the detriment of time.
“He couldn’t get the treatment he needed because everything was shut down,” recalled Pedro, describing the nation-wide health care stress on medical facilities due to COVID-19. “This let the situation set in. Whereas, ideally, you get them in right away.”
Although new obstacles continued to emerge, Meehan never lost focus on his goal to once again fly.
“This guy was at it and you have to hand it to him because he just didn’t stop,” said Anderson, describing Meehan’s resilience. “He never quit.”
“He went the extra mile to make sure he got where he needed to be, which was back in the cockpit,” Anderson added.
According to Pedro, one of the keys to getting the Aviator better would be his sheer determination and drive.
“He was willing to do whatever it took,” said Pedro. “That’s half the battle.”
Simply put, Pedro described Meehan’s rehabilitation as a series of stimulations, which tested his visual and sensory abilities.
“Once the cogs and the wheels start going, you want them to synchronize,” Pedro said. “The brain has two pacemakers; we wanted the timing of those loops to be right.”
Approximately two-years after his injury, and extensive work with Dr. Pedro, Meehan went back to Walter Reed to complete a series of neuro-cognitive tests required to fly again. These included, but were not limited to, brain exercises testing reactions to loud noises and lights, as well as memory assessments.
“The lead up to being cleared was extremely daunting and unknown,” Meehan said.
Meehan’s efforts paid off and he received an “up slip,” clearing him to fly. In June of 2022, while on annual training at Camp Edwards, Joint Base Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, Meehan conducted his first flight post injury.
“My first flight back I was very nervous,” said Meehan. “I just kept thinking ‘I hope this goes well.’”
“It really took a year after I finally flew to get the mission set back,” Meehan added. “At that point it felt like I finally knew what my future would be like again.”
Meehan attests that without the doctors at Walter Reed, Dr. Pedro, the support from the New Hampshire Army National Guard, and a list of other encouraging individuals throughout his healing journey, he would never be in the cockpit again.
Today, not only is Meehan flying but he is also in command of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment.
“His drive, dedication, compassion and tenacity to recover are the epitome of a truly well-rounded leader,” said Col. Woody Groton, special projects officer with Joint Forces Headquarters and former commander of 54th Troop Command. “His resilience, when faced with adversity and uncertainties, is something we can all learn from.”
That feeling is shared by long-time friend, Anderson.
“Overcoming this injury, to then fly again, and take command,” added Anderson. “He’s simply unmatched by others and this is a testament to his incredible character.”
When asked how it felt to look back and to see how far he’s ventured, Meehan described the experience as eye-opening.
“I think this has made me more well-rounded,” said Meehan. “I’m able to better understand the things my soldiers go through when it comes to challenges, sacrifices and adversity.”
“This journey really made me grow as a person, professionally and personally,” he added. “I think this has made me a better pilot.”
FORT NOVOSEL, AL, UNITED STATES
Story by Kelly Morris
U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence
FORT NOVOSEL, Ala. — It is said that students are often just one encouraging instructor away from being a success story.
For many Chinook pilots over the past 20 years, that instructor was Department of the Army Civilian Charles Mineo, a retired chief warrant officer 4 who served during Desert Storm.
Upon his recent flight in the Chinook marking his 10,000th incident-free flying hour, the well-known instructor pilot at Knox Army Heliport, who is often described as “unorthodox” in his methods, stepped away from the flight line after 19 years of heartfelt teaching and mentoring.
Among the crowd watching as Mineo’s aircraft landed that final time at Knox Army Heliport and steered the helicopter under the ceremonial arc of water spraying from two fire trucks Dec. 8, was Capt. Andrew Givens, commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 223d Aviation Regiment, a former student of Mineo’s.
“He’s extremely dedicated to his profession. His life is training people how to fly and working with different personalities. He takes strangers and makes them family,” Givens said.
During his own training lessons with Mineo a few years ago, Givens recalled he felt he was being pushed to the point of frustration, and then he would have a breakthrough moment where he sincerely appreciated what he learned.
“He puts people in hard situations because he knows they can handle it and then they’ll be better for it. I don’t think I would have learned as much from somebody that wouldn’t have put me through those uncomfortable situations that humbled me and forced me to think outside the box. Guys like Chuck are actually making a difference in these students’ lives to get them to learn and grow as aviators,” he said. “It’s sad to see him go.”
Givens also recalled Mineo going above and beyond in taking care of Soldiers. When Givens got married on a holiday weekend during the goggle phase of his tactics training back in 2018, Mineo presented him with a card and monetary gift so he could to take his wife someplace nice.
“He puts everything he has into his students,” said Givens, who recalled a quote from the retirement ceremony: “’Love, kindness and patience, the more you give, the more you get’. That’s really how he approaches training as well. He does everything he can to make you feel like one of his. He has a very deep connection with all of his students, and a very lasting effect on people,” he said.
Looking back on 45 years of combined federal service, Mineo said he saw early in his military career the impact an instructor can have, while serving as an enlisted survival instructor in the U.S. Air Force.
Two Air Force pilots had gotten into clouds during a routine training flight in Texas, were inverted, and had to eject from the aircraft. Mineo, who was in Washington at the time, got a phone call from one of them.
“I heard your voice while I was coming down in the parachute,” one pilot said, recalling complete sentences from the training he received from Mineo.
“That inspired me,” Mineo said. “That fired me up — I’m not wasting my words, because when it’s needed — and if only one guy needed that, it worked. Survival for me was the basis of forming my military mind, I would say, and my behavioral interactions with people.”
Long before that, he had already settled on his approach to working with people.
“All my mentors have always encouraged me,” he said, reflecting back on how their family doctor encouraged him when he studied premed in college for a few years.
“You have a decision to make at every juncture, at every moment, like right now — do we encourage or do we discourage? We like to think we encourage, but it all depends on what you’re protecting. If you’ve got to protect something, maybe you discourage somebody else.”
In training Chinook aviators, sometimes all it takes is finding “which screw needs to be turned,” he said.
It has everything to do with a keen instructor who creates a climate where ethe student takes ownership of the lesson material.
Mineo recalled a time as an instructor pilot when he was briefed that a particular student he was to fly with could not do autorotation maneuvers. The student was about to get this third ’Unsatisfactory’. Mineo pulled the throttle back, simulated engine failure in the OH-58 A/C Kiowa, and pretended not to be very good at the maneuver himself, which motivated the previously-unsuccessful student.
“He greased that sucker on. That young man did autos that were A maneuvers all day long,” Mineo said. “I learned a big lesson about myself that day. When my student feels a shared responsibility in the outcome, you get success. I laid his grade folder on his platoon leader’s desk and said, ‘This guy’s an A student.’”
“People call me a little unorthodox with some things, and I hate that word, but it’s kind of a Montessori thing, we all have a way that we have to learn,” he said.
What it boils down to is Mineo believes in people.
“When you believe in people it is a contagious and self-perpetuating condition. It’s got to be that way,” he said.
Mineo said the leader’s focus should be on their replacement.
“When I inbrief with my new guys and do my mentoring with them, I tell them you’ve got to realize you’re building credential while you’re doing this, but it’s not about you. It’s about the credential you’re aiding your understudy to build. You’re mentoring that person to create their own credential and therefore they get confidence in doing what they’re doing,” he said.
He said he decided to live vicariously through the success of his students.
“I want to see them succeed. When my students have a good day, I have a grand day. I mean, I’m on top of the clouds. When my students have a bad day, it’s a bad day for me. It’s not a day for me to lash out, it’s a day for me to go, what card did I not pull out of my sleeve to make this happen and how can I made that person better,” he said.
He operates on the premise that the student can do no wrong.
“I tell my wife the same thing, and when I complain about something I need you to remind me of that. She’s somebody’s daughter, she’s somebody’s mother, she’s somebody’s aunt. Everybody I fly with is the same thing,” he said. “The only thing you can do is not comply with what I ask you to do. That’s not good. But in the cockpit if you make a mistake it’s because I allowed you to do it.”
It sets the tone in the cockpit for the student to have the freedom to express themselves, he added.
Reflecting back on his active duty career, Mineo said the reason he initially joined the Army, after 8 years in the Air Force, was the influence of some Huey pilots from the 112th Aviation out of Bangor, Maine. They had helped provide live hoist recovery training opportunities for his survival training program, and one day they gave him an orientation flight and told him they needed resourceful people like him in the Army.
“When someone has a can-do attitude I gravitate toward that and I’m enamored with that,” he said. “They encouraged me with an incentive flight, and I made a decision that changed my life. I initially wanted to be an F-15 pilot for the Air Force, but I would have been too old for that. When your plan fails, it’s best to go with God. That seems to work pretty well for me. But it’s God’s plan.”
That plan would place him on a path to keep him coming back to the Home of Army Aviation.
In the mid-1980s he trained to become a warrant officer aviator at then-Fort Rucker to fly the UH-1H Huey, and after graduating he was assigned to 5-158th Aviation Regiment, 12th Aviation Brigade, V Corps.
After deploying during in support of “Task Force Warrior” during Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990-1991, he would return to Germany, and soon was on his way back to Fort Rucker in the early 1990s to serve as a UH-1H Instructor pilot at 1-212th Aviation Regiment.
A few years later he earned his bachelor’s degree and completed the CH-47D transition. He served in South Korea and returned to Fort Rucker to serve as an OH58 A/C IP and standardizations officer for 1-212th Aviation. He returned for a second tour in Korea where he retired from active duty as a chief warrant officer four after 26 years.
Among his awards were the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medals, Air Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal. He is also qualified in the TH-55.
Mineo returned to Fort Rucker to focus on flight school students as a DA civilian instructor pilot at Fort Novosel in 2004 and continued until December 2023, when he finally decided he would call it quits when he reached his 10,000th flying hour.
That day was December 8. His co-pilot was his son, Lt. Robert Mineo, a former Army aviator who served 8 years in the Army and currently serves in the U.S. Coast Guard at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, and pilots the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.
Chuck recalled his son saying to him, “’Well, you know dad, if you don’t have 10,000 hours of doing something you’re not a master’. That’s why we’re here right now,” he said.
When Robert came through flight school, Chuck was able to be his IP for his first flight in the Chinook back in 2007. Traditionally on the student’s first demonstration flight, called the ‘nickel ride’, the student presents a nickel with his birth year on it to ‘pay’ for the ride.
“It was his give-him-his-nickel-back ride today,” Chuck said, with a smile.
“It’s just an incredible opportunity to fly with your dad,” Robert said. “The command here was fantastic about finding a way we could make it work.”
“It’s always been nice to have a lifeline back to Army aviation. Coming back here feels like home, so many familiar faces, so many people I’ve flown with that he’s flown with over the years. They’ve been able to tell me the fun stories about him. Everybody has a good Chuck story, and it’s awesome.”
Chuck noted, “I have guys here who were my crew chiefs in Germany who babysat Rob.”
Being in the cockpit with his son again for the final flight felt “easy,” Chuck said.
“He’s always been one who listens and articulates well. It’s a reminder that we train the trainer,” he said.
Robert said the Army helped mold him as a leader.
“There’s no camaraderie like you’ll find in the Army,” Robert said. “The Army has a cool way of putting you in some more austere training environments and conditions that creates I think just a deeper seeded bond. I love not just the air assault capability of the Chinook, but it’s a workhorse. Your maintainers, flight engineers and crew chiefs are some of the hardest working people.
“The Army’s leadership style of raising you as a young second lieutenant is always pairing you up with an NCO to train you because you know some things but you really don’t know a lot of things,” Robert said. “Just learning people, learning how to lead … A lot of people will work as hard for you as you work for them.”
Growing up having an active-duty Army aviator dad, Robert said he remembered being at Fort Rucker as a child and being upset that he couldn’t take the TH-55 home with him after attending ‘family day’ at the airfield. While they were in Germany, he saw the pictures of his dad flying near the Leaning Tower of Pisa and flying through the Alps. Chuck would take Rob into the simulator on the weekend, and at 7 years old Rob couldn’t reach the pedals but he could fly an instrument approach.
Robert’s last duty assignment in the Army, he served as a Chinook company commander with 1st Infantry Division in Afghanistan in 2015-2016.
“I have watched the metamorphosis of the little boy becoming a man and then becoming a battle experienced man, and then watching the confidence changes. Those were all going through my head today,” Chuck said.
Rob said it was great to watch his dad in his element again.
“He is an Army Aviation legend.”
First, on behalf of the entire AAAA National Executive Board, and Bill Harris and Janis Arena’s team at the Monroe, Connecticut AAAA global headquarters, I would like to wish you and your families all the peace that is the promise of this holiday season. We hope you have had some time to enjoy each other’s company and appreciate all we must be thankful for. As we start the new year, we are blessed for all that AAAA does, and will do, for you and your families in the future.
We have just concluded our Cribbins Readiness Conference in Huntsville, Alabama as I write this. By metrics, it was our most supported Cribbins Conference to date, with almost 2,100 registered and over 120 exhibitors. A very special thanks to our host, the AAAA Tennessee Valley Chapter led by Mr. Gary Nenninger, and especially to MG Tom O’Connor, Commanding General, Aviation and Missile Command; Acting PEO, Aviation, Mr. Rodney Davis; the Fort Novosel leadership representing MG Mac McCurry (Branch Chief Warrant Officer and Command Sergeant Major) and their leaders; they were omni-present for the two and a half day meeting with our users from the field and our incredible Industry Partners, and attending and participating in the numerous focused working groups. See page 80 for details and photos of our outstanding awardees.
The AAAA Scholarship Foundation held their second annual fund-raising dinner dance during the Cribbins Conference as well. It was a 1960s/70s theme to celebrate the 60 years since the Foundation was established in 1963. As you can see in the photo, your AAAA National Executive Group was hard at work enjoying the event that raised over $90,000 for future scholarships. The band was terrific, and everyone had a great time; it truly put the “fun” back into your dysfunctional/functional AAAA Family! A special thank you to SFI President COL (Ret.) Karen Lloyd and her team of volunteers who created and brought this event to fruition. See her article and more photos on page 96. Also, thank you to all the sponsors but most especially to Diamond Sponsor, Jan Smith and her company S3 Incorporated, and the entertainment sponsor, Amentum. These great industry partners’ measure of underwriting ensured that the event was supremely successful, and supported the most significant AAAA membership benefit, the AAAA Scholarship Foundation, that every year gives out over $650,000 to over 400 students.
And lastly, during the Cribbins Symposium we also held our semi-annual AAAA National Executive Board meeting. I am very grateful to all of our National Executive Board members commitment and am especially impressed with our new AAAA National Members at Large and our new committee chairs, for all the work they are doing from Strategic Planning to the Awards Program. We are currently at a membership of over 19,600 members (only a few hundred away from our all- time high) while our AAAA Chapter activity and financial status are also at all-time high levels; your association continues to be in great shape!
Looking ahead to 2024, the April Annual Summit is literally six exhibit booths away from being completely sold out. The Gaylord Rockies sold out in minutes for hotel rooms, but numerous surrounding hotels are still available. Check out the web site and register today. Note that we are opening the show a day earlier so please plan accordingly.
Again, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you all. We look forward to a prosperous and productive 2024!!
MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
MG (Ret.) Todd Royar, Mr. Bill Harris, Ms. Janis Arena and I are just back from the retirement ceremony for Mr. Geoffrey
Downer, Director Special Programs (Aviation), AMCOM and PEO, Rotary Wing, USSOCOM at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
Hundreds of Geoff’s co-workers, friends, family, personnel from supported units and Army Aviation Branch leaders, and our
industry partner representatives packed the Jacobs Conference Center… providing one of the most sincerely heartfelt expressions
of gratitude and appreciation for his incredible service that I’ve have seen in many years.
Since 1983, Geoff has been a singularly consequential leader in developing and providing the most sophisticated and classified
capabilities to U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation forces requirements. He was and is a true humble servant leader.
It was my distinct honor to induct Geoff into the Gold Order of Saint Michael on September 26 and help recognize his amazing
accomplishments, almost all of which will never be made public. LTG Erik Peterson, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8 was the keynote
speaker and MG Tom O’Connor, Commander, AMCOM was the presiding officer…both of whom did an extraordinary job of
articulating Mr. Downer’s character, values, selfless service, and contributions spanning 40-plus years of faithful service to our
Nation. I was also honored to induct Geoff’s wife Beth into the Honorable Order of Our Lady of Loreto for her unfailing career-
long support of her husband and his organization. Good luck and best wishes Geoff and Beth in your retirement and on behalf of
all our 19,300 AAAA members, thank you for all you have done.
We initiated our AAAA event season with the Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) Symposium, September 11-13 in
Huntsville at the Von Braun Center. Very grateful for a record turn-out of support from both our government and industry partner
attendees and most importantly, we surfaced some impactful issues over the three and a half days of classified and unclassified
sessions focused on holistic Aviation Survivability. See page 50 for more details and photos of our ASE, AMSO, and Avionics
award winners. Special thanks to MG Mac McCurry, our Branch Chief, and BG Ed Barker, PEO, IEWS for their enduring support
and commitment to this forum and their insightful and timely organizational updates.
Now as previously promised, here is an update on the 2024 Summit. The AAAA meeting team went out to Denver for a site
visit for the April 24-26, 2024 Summit a few weeks ago. The latest information is that we are opening registration and housing on
October 26. The Gaylord Rockies Hotel has significantly less rooms capacity than the Gaylord in Nashville. As a result, it will sell
out in minutes once we open. We have 12 additional overflow hotels that will all be visible on the registration site when we open.
We anticipate that we will have a waiting list for the Gaylord and will work that down as rooms become available usually in late
March or early April. We are working on a shuttle transportation option as well and will be seeking corporate sponsors to help
offset that cost. If necessary, we will contract additional hotels.
If current exhibit demand is any indication, the 2024 Summit looks to be ‘off the charts’. We have almost totally sold out of
available exhibit space at this point, and that is even with the construction of an additional 30,000 square foot heated and air-
conditioned tent adjacent to the permanent exhibit hall.
We are also modifying the agenda to open the professional sessions on Wednesday, a day earlier than previous Summits, and
starting each day’s program at a more reasonable hour. This way we can hopefully provide more professional development hours,
as well as exhibit hours.
We are also blessed to have the new Chief of Staff of the Army, GEN Randy George, GEN Laura Richardson, CG,
USSOUTHCOM, and GEN Dan Hokanson, Chief, NGB all tentatively accepting to keynote and help anchor the event. Again, we
ask for your patience and understanding as we work through the coordination and planning with the Gaylord Rockies; we had no
idea years ago when we contracted for Denver, that our AAAA Annual Summit would be growing by 30% in the intervening
Finally, remember the Joseph P. Cribbins Readiness Conference, November 13-15, 2023 in Huntsville, AL. All of the planning,
coordination, and commitment for that event are really positive and I look forward to seeing you all there!
MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
It is hard to believe that five months have elapsed since our Annual Summit in Nashville.
As reported previously, your National Executive Group (NEG) met at the Connecticut Headquarters to synchronize our path ahead back in June. Part of our discussions centered around the identification and selection of our new Standing Committee Chairs; I am grateful to those that have agreed to take on the Chairman duties and responsibilities and am pleased to announce the following appointments: By-Laws and Legal – COL (Ret.) Shelly Yarborough; Civilian Affairs – BG (Ret.) Kelly Thomas; Finance – BG (Ret.) Tim Edens; Hall of Fame Trustees – CSM (Ret.) Tod Glidewell; Industry Affairs – MG (Ret.) Frank Muth; Legislative Affairs – LTC (Ret.) Josh Baker; National Guard and Reserve – BG (Ret.) J. Ray Davis; Awards Selection – COL (Ret.) Scott Schisser; and Strategic Planning and Communications – COL (Ret.) Angelia Farnell.
Speaking of assignments, I have to say this should be one of our favorite issues of ARMY AVIATION Magazine, the Annual “Blue Book” that lists all of the major Army Aviation offices, organizations and formations. Between the invaluable detailed point of contact information and the photos of all our senior Aviation leaders, it really provides an opportunity to appreciate the breadth, depth, and contributions of Army Aviation to the greater Army and Joint Force.
In August, several of us in the AAAA National Executive Group had the privilege to attend the retirement and Change of Responsibility ceremonies of our Senior Army Aviator and (now former) Army Chief of Staff, GEN Jim McConville. What an unparalleled example of professionalism, leadership, and selfless service GEN McConville has provided all of us in a career spanning over 42 years. We look forward to his continuing contributions to the Army and Army Aviation in retirement.
We have now entered the rewarding AAAA event season with the September Aircraft Survivability Equipment Symposium in Huntsville already behind us by the time you read this (notably, ASE registration is running significantly above last year’s event in Lexington, KY). In addition, we have our Senior Executive Associates meeting with the Army Aviation Six Pack, Plus One, led by GEN (Ret.) J.D. Thurman, following the AUSA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on October 12th. On the heels of that, we have the Cribbins Readiness Forum in Huntsville, AL November 13-15 and then we end this calendar year with the Luther Jones Army Aviation Depot Forum in Corpus Christi, TX on December 5-6.
And among all of the above we have been inducting numerous individuals into the Gold Order of St. Michael around the country to recognize those who have given so much to our Branch and Army (see pages 130-131 for photos and details). Also, it’s important to highlight that our Executive Director, Mr. Bill Harris, and Senior Vice President, MG (Ret.) Wally Golden, visited the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association Annual Reunion in San Antonio, TX on July 1 where they met with the VHPA Executive Committee regarding an even closer relationship with the VHPA in future years to include reprinting articles from their magazine (see page 124 in this issue). The VHPA is one of the largest AAAA Scholarship Foundation contributors with historical funding of well over $400,000!
In the next Army Aviation Magazine issue, we will provide an update on our planning and preparation for the 2024 Summit in Denver, Colorado. Spoiler alert, we are going to be in numerous hotels and Industry exhibit demand is off the charts. Who knew the AAAA Summit would grow as much as it has after we signed the 2024 contract for the Denver Gaylord back in 2019!
To all our members, thanks for all you are continuing to do for our Army, Army Aviation, and our Association. We hope you and your families have had a wonderful summer, and as always, I look forward to hearing from you!!
Above the Best.
MG Walt Davis, U.S. Army Retired
36th President, AAAA
One Army aviator’s passion to raise awareness among minorities about opportunities in Army Aviation is not going unnoticed.
As a flight school student in 2015, Capt. Matthew Manning began guest speaking at historically Black colleges and universities to inform cadets about the Aviation branch and encourage them through his motto, “Don’t self-eliminate.”
Since then, the program idea he envisioned when he first entered the Army has grown, in conjunction with diversity and outreach initiatives at the Organization and Personnel Force Development directorate.
Lt. Col. Erika Salerno, the OPFD deputy director, said Army aviation is seeing a marked increase in the number of Black and African American cadets competing to be part of the branch.
“These young men and women are pursuing their dream of becoming an Army aviator. I have no doubt it is because of the impact Capt. Matthew Manning has had on them,” said Salerno.
An AH-64 Apache pilot, Manning is a servant leader who knows what it means to set and achieve goals despite barriers he faced, and he is unafraid to be “raw and vulnerable” in sharing personal experiences as he motivates others, she explained.
And leaders in the Army Aviation are not the only ones taking notice.
In August, Manning receiving a national-level Military Meritorious Service Award from the Blacks In Government organization. The award recognizes efforts to fully integrate African Americans within the Armed Forces or Federal civilian workforce, increase opportunity for participation of HBCUs in Federal programs, and increase participation in DoD programs including with the Officer Training Corps.
Manning, who is currently a Gen. Omar N. Bradley fellow (formerly known as the Joint Chiefs of Staff internship), said the award reflects a team effort.
“Army Aviation is walking the walk. We’re in there day in and day out trying to make a difference. This award shows that everything we are doing as a team matters. We are on a good trajectory,” he said.
Understanding there is more work still to be done, Manning said he feels grateful for the support of current and former USAACE leaders who truly believe in strength through diversity.
Regardless of where he is stationed, Manning makes time to promote Army aviation and help others rise. Through guest speaking, representing the branch at events, and hosting in-person and virtual sessions with cadets through the Reserve Officer Training Program and at HBCUs, Manning aims to dispel myths and explain the process of becoming an Army aviator.
Manning said he wants to motivate others and help ensure the legacy of African Americans in military aviation, which began with the Tuskegee Airmen and the Red Tails in World War II, continues.
To him, the outreach mission is personal.
“I serve for those that don’t think that they can do it,” said Manning. “I think my calling is to inspire people to want to become aviators, and in general just inspire people to want to accomplish their goals and do things they don’t think they can accomplish, to at least give it a chance.”
Manning has 17 years of military service under his belt, including prior enlisted service in the U.S. Air Force, and three deployments to Afghanistan.
While previously serving as an enlisted A-10 mechanic, Manning set his sights on becoming a pilot, but was told he didn’t look the part, even though he was fit and performed his job well.
“That for me was the fire that I think started my true path of wanting to become an aviator, which ultimately led me to the Army,” Manning said. “It was an eye opener for me. I wasn’t angry, but I set out on a journey to prove I did look like a pilot.”
He transitioned from the Air Force to the Army in 2013, and as a cadet he began developing a plan for outreach to minorities, whose decisions about their future often hinge on whether they see people who look like them in those roles. Though people said he wouldn’t get accepted in aviation, he commissioned as an aviator in 2015 as a distinguished military graduate.
“That’s a little bit of my ‘why’. It resonates when people say, ‘I don’t fit the profile’,” Manning said.
He found a supportive team at Fort Novosel, including cadre, OPFD teammates, and senior leaders, from his first arriving for flight school and continued working branch initiatives as a team as he returned here for the Aviation Captains Career Course and the Air Cavalry Leaders Course.
“We’re not going to make aviation easy to get in. Our job is too important. We’re responsible for the people to our left and to our right, the best Soldiers on the ground, the people that may be in the back of the aircraft, so we’re not going to cut any corners,” he said.
“What we can do is educate them a little bit more, expose them a little bit more to the branch, expose them to aircraft,” he said. “And representation matters. If I don’t see African American or female officers, why would I go in a branch where I don’t think I could succeed?”
In the future he hopes to see more opportunities for ROTC cadets to be exposed to the aircraft and aviation personnel, and he would like to see more cadets receive an orientation flight in an Army Black Hawk or Chinook helicopter.
“I think that will ultimately be that wow factor, that life-altering moment,” he said.
Manning also wants young people to know that a person doesn’t have to look exactly like they do to help them along their path. A white male commander “poured into me more than any leader had ever poured into me,” and a white female instructor pilot genuinely encouraged him when he had difficulty learning to hover, he explained.
“It takes cross-cultural. It takes white, Hispanic, people that are diverse to all come together to truly make this initiative what it is and make it important,” he said.
Much of his branch outreach focuses on cadets, providing information, getting them out to airfields, providing an aerial tour, and an opportunity to fly in the simulators.
He works with various age groups, including partnering with a nonprofit to inspire hope and encourage juveniles as young as age nine to set their sights on the horizon, including through a junior aviator training program.
“Some are surrounded by drugs, violence, parents are in and out of prison systems, or they’re in and out of juvenile systems, and not a lot of resources around them to help them get back on track, so they continue down this bad path,” he said.
“That’s the importance of mentorship. It’s deliberate, you’re going out of your way to make sure you’re pulling the next person up.”
Undergirding his passion for lifting others up is a love for his country.
“I understand that we have our problems, but this country is greatest country in the world. Whatever people’s race, ethnicity, gender is, I don’t care what your political affiliation is, at the end of the day we’re all Americans,” Manning said.
“We have to stick together,” he said. “We are going to overcome whatever comes our way.”
FORT STEWART, GA, UNITED STATES
Story by Kevin Larson
Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office
The sight of helicopters on display at Hunter Army Airfield stirred up smiles and memories for more than 200 Army aviator veterans and their families on Oct. 3.
The Cobra Hall association held its 50-year anniversary reunion in Savannah Oct. 1-5 to celebrate the legacy of Hunter once being home to the Cobra Training and Qualification School. Hunter Army Airfield’s mission from 1967 to 1973 was to train Cobra pilots during the height of the Vietnam War.
Two helicopters caused the biggest reactions; an AH-1Z Viper flown down by the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, and a privately-owned AH-1G Cobra—the very model flown and maintained out of Hunter’s Cobra Hall by the veteran aviators.
Also on display were a MH-60M Black Hawk and an MH-47G Chinook from Hunter’s 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
Paul Fishman came to Savannah from Dallas for the reunion and was drawn to the Viper on static display outside of Hunter’s Truscott Air Terminal. He served at Cobra Hall from 1970 to 1973.
Sitting in the cockpit of the Viper, the Marine Corps’ modernized and current version of the Cobra attack helicopter, Fishman was impressed by the complexity of the controls and taken back to the simpler days of the G-model Cobra he flew.
“It’s mystifying,” Fishman said. “The advanced instrumentation is completely different. The sophistication of it is light years ahead of what we used to fly with.”
The radio in the old Cobras was a switch that toggled between four channels, Fishman said. The Viper’s controls to do the same remained a mystery. Still, sitting in the cockpit awakened memories.
“I’m as happy as can be,” Fishman said. “Savannah has always been a warm place in my heart. My wife and I have been here numerous times for visits—we have friends who live in the area.”
Today, Cobra Hall is called Saber Hall and is used as a staging area for rapid deployment. The veterans took a moment during their visit to honor the building’s legacy as a pilot training facility by unveiling a historic marker paid for by the Cobra Hall association with its own funds, said Jack Dibrell, Cobra Hall veteran, tour organizer, and the former airfield manager for Hunter.
“We wanted to have a permanent remembrance of Cobra Hall,” Dibrell said. “I hope you’ll be pleased with what it is. It does tell the whole legacy of Cobra Hall.”
David Sale, Cobra Hall veteran, said there are further plans to honor the legacy of the past mission by placing the unit’s patch onto Saber Hall. The patch was prominently displayed on the building in the 60s and 70s.
“This young man has agreed to work with us to put the patch back on,” Sale said, pointing to Hunter garrison commander Lt. Col. Bob Cuthbertson.
Cheers, whistles and applause from the gathered veterans followed the announcement.
Sale was one of the last pilots to be stationed at Cobra Hall when it shuttered its mission in 1973.
“I was fortunate enough to fly the last seven Cobras out of here,” Sale said.
The G-model Cobra that was on display for the tour was just like the one Sales flew back then. Today, few Vietnam-era attack helicopters are still flying.
“It’s probably one of four G-model Cobras left in the world,” Sale said. “It’s a nice thing.”
Being back at Hunter and seeing helicopters and comrades-in-arms brought back memories for Sale, especially of the place to be on Friday nights back then, the Cobra Hall officers’ club.
“We had a lot of fun times here in Savannah and Hunter Army Airfield,” he said. “That club was packed with people.”
Cuthbertson said it was an honor and privilege to welcome the Cobra Hall veterans back to Hunter.
“We’re all about supporting the history of Hunter Army Airfield and bringing that to Savannah,” Cuthbertson said. “I can’t imagine the stories you have to tell.”
Willliam Reeder Jr. from Seabeck, Washington, served as an Army captain during his time flying Cobras. Lots of memories were brought back by seeing people he hasn’t seen in a long time. He said the reunion is a chance to share stories that need to be shared.
“Being with these guys is absolutely special,” he said. “And being back on Hunter here at Cobra Hall…this is where it all began. I learned to fly Cobras here.”
One of the stories Reeder shared was of being one of only two Cobra pilots shot down and taken prisoner in Vietnam.
It happened during the Easter offensive in May 1972, the largest enemy offensive of the Vietnam War that saw the north pushing into friendly territory using conventional forces, Reeder said. He launched as a flight of two Cobras on May 9, 1972, to support two friendly fire bases being overrun by the offensive.
Upon returning to base to rearm and refuel, he was given orders to accompany a UH-1 Huey helicopter on a resupply mission to another fire base being overrun.
The rest is history. The weather was getting bad over Ben Het, Vietnam, and the helicopters had to go in low and fast, Reeder said. He and his wingman shot a clear path for the Huey through the enemy tanks and infantry pinning down the friendly forces holed up in the command bunker.
“The good news is he got in and got the ammo kicked off and did a pedal turn and got the heck out of there,” Reeder said. “The bad news is we turned in a big arching turn to continue to cover him. We started taking fire from multiple antiaircraft positions.”
Reeder’s Cobra was hit, began to spin toward the ground from a low altitude, and crashed. His wingman was also hit, taking a round into his chest; he flew back to base and lived. Reeder learned his wingman’s fate only after returning home from the prisoner of war camp in Vietnam.
Despite being shot down in one, the G-model Cobra is Reeder’s absolute favorite. He spent time behind the stick of the AH-64 Apache, too, later in his Army career.
“I love that aircraft,” he said. “There’s nothing like it on Earth. It’s absolutely beautiful.”
Savannah also holds a special place in his heart, Reeder said. They are friendly and proud of their military neighbors.
“The finest people live right here in this area,” he said.
FORT WORTH, TX, UNITED STATES
Story by Sgt. Elliot Alagueuzian
1st Cavalry Division
FORT WORTH, T.X. – The Lone Star State has always had a deep appreciation for both its rich military heritage and the thrilling world of motorsports. When these two worlds collide, it creates a spectacle that captures the hearts of Texans. One such breathtaking moment occurred when Troopers of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division conducted a stunning flyover at the Texas Motor Speedway on September 23rd, 2023. This unforgettable event showcased the skill, precision, and unity of the brigade’s aviation Troopers while paying tribute to the bravery of those who have served.
“It’s definitely very cool.” 1st Lt. Elizabeth M. Haas former platoon leader of Bravo Company, 2-27 Air Cav said. “I grew up going to air shows, so being able to see our Air Cav aircraft flying around and to be a part of something like this makes it truly special.”
Organizing a flyover involves meticulous planning and coordination between the First Team and the Texas Motor Speedway. The Air Cav’s aviation units, equipped with UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters, undertook extensive preparations to ensure the flyover would be executed according to plan.
“There is always a lot of deliberate planning and rehearsals that go into a flyover,” Capt. Zachary Blevins, company commander of Bravo Company, 2-27 Aviation Regiment said. “We need to make sure we are all on the same sheet of music, depending on how many aircraft are involved or if there are other organizations involved, but it’s all rewarding in the end.”
The helicopters, iconic symbols of the division’s mobility and versatility, were adorned with the brigade logo. The crewmembers, skilled aviators and dedicated Troopers, underwent rigorous training to synchronize their movements and ensure the safety of the operation.
“It is a process of learning how to crew a Chinook such as knowing the systems and knowing how this thing actually flies to get it up in the air. “Sgt. Devon Council, flight engineer for Bavo Company, 2-27 Air Cav said.
On the day of the flyover, the atmosphere at the Texas Motor Speedway was electric. Thousands of fans waited in anticipation for the main event.
As race car drivers positioned themselves next to their vehicles, the national anthem began, and the crowd’s attention shifted to the sky. In perfect formation, the UH-60 Black Hawks soared overhead led by the CH-47 Chinook.
The collaboration between the 1st Cavalry Division and the Texas Motor Speedway highlighted the unity and pride that Texas has for its military. It demonstrated that, beyond the thrill of racing, Texans hold their military traditions close to their hearts. The flyover at the Texas Motor Speedway celebrated the spirit of patriotism and the enduring bond between the people of Texas and their military. The deafening applause and cheers from the crowd echoed the deep respect and gratitude Texans hold for their military.
“It’s quiet because of the national anthem but then all of a sudden there’s just applause and cheer in the audience.” David Hart vice president of media relations at Texas Motor Speedway said. “They see it coming from far away and as the helicopters get closer the noise gets louder and louder.”
The 1st Cavalry Division’s flyover at the Texas Motor Speedway was not just a display of precision flying and military excellence; it was a powerful reminder of the deep respect and appreciation that Texas has for its military heritage. As the helicopters disappeared into the distance, the echoes of their powerful salute lingered in the hearts of those who witnessed this breathtaking display of patriotism.
FORT MCCOY, WI, UNITED STATES
Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office
Aircrews with the Wisconsin National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment operated UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters Sept. 14, 2023, at Fort McCoy for a training operation at the installation.
Members of the unit regularly complete training operations at Fort McCoy and the unit also supports numerous training events at the installation each year.
According to the Army fact sheet for the Black Hawk, its mission is to provide air assault, general support, aeromedical evacuation, command and control, and special operations support to combat, stability, and support operations.
The UH-60 also is the Army’s utility tactical transport helicopter. The versatile helicopter has enhanced the overall mobility of the Army due to dramatic improvements in troop capacity and cargo lift capability over the years as well, the fact sheet states. Now in its fourth decade of service, the Black Hawk was developed as a result of the Army’s requirement in 1972 for a simple, robust, and reliable utility helicopter system to satisfy projected air-mobile requirements around the globe.
Named after Native American war chief and leader of the Sauk tribe in the Midwest, Black Hawk, the first UH-60A was accepted by the Army in 1978, and entered service in 1979 when it was delivered to aviation components of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, the fact sheet states. Since that time, the Black Hawk has accumulated more than 9 million total fleet hours and has supported Soldiers in every major contingency operation the Army has executed, including Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and throughout the Middle East.
Today, the Army continues to integrate emerging technology enhancements into the Black Hawk fleet to increase the performance, reliability, availability, and maintainability of the platform through addition of technologies such as the integration of the improved turbine engine; upgrades to the airframe, including an improved troop seat for additional crash-worthiness; and a lightweight, composite all-moving tail.
“Developing and fielding an aircraft that has earned and maintained an extraordinary reputation of remarkable service supporting Soldiers over a full spectrum of military operations these past 40 years is the direct result of the incredible efforts of all the government and industry teammates who have supported the Black Hawk program throughout the history of the program,” said Col. Billy Jackson, program manager for Program Executive Office for Aviation’s Utility Helicopters Program Office. “I’m exceptionally proud of this team and the herculean effort everyone puts in managing a very complex program with such sustained success.”
According to the Army Program Executive Office for Aviation, today, the UH-60 Black Hawk makes up the Army’s largest rotary wing fleet with more than 2,100 airframes in the current inventory. As production of the most current H-60M model continues, over the coming years the Army will divest its remaining UH-60A and L aircraft, to be replaced by 760 UH-60Vs.
With multiple versions of the H-60 Black Hawk in service, the helicopter is considered the “workhorse” of Army aviation. Besides being the U.S Army’s primary tactical transport helicopter, approximately 1,200 H-60s operate in 30 partner and allied nations.
“For nearly half a century the Black Hawk has served remarkably as the primary medium lift, multi-role helicopter for the U.S. Army. With planned major upgrades on the horizon, the platform will be a key component of the Army aviation fleet through 2054,” Army Program Executive Office for Aviation officials said.
In July and August 2022, the Utility Helicopters Project Office completed a “successful Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) of the UH-60V Black Hawk Helicopter at Fort McCoy,” as stated in a story by Paul Stevenson with the Office in August 2022 at https://www.dvidshub.net/news/427747/us-army-completes-uh-60v-initial-operational-test-evaluation.
“The UH-60V is an upgraded variant of the legacy UH-60L with a digital glass cockpit and integrated avionics suite,” the article states. “The purpose of the test and evaluation (was) to demonstrate and assess the degree to which the aircraft meets its designated requirements and set the conditions for the full rate production point. The IOT&E began July 5 and during three weeks of preliminary testing, pilots flew more than 120 hours with five UH-60V helicopters under realistic battlefield conditions.”
(Article prepared by the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office with information supported from the Army Program Executive Office for Aviation.)