128th Aviation Brigade / By SGM James Etheridge: There I was, 22 years in the Army, a CSM in Honduras conducting joint multinational missions; I had 16 years in the 160th with three years as the S-3 SGM, Joint assignments in OEF/OIF, by all measures I guess I could be called, “high seed, low drag,” at least that is what I told myself, and then it hit me… I was being assigned to the 128th Aviation Brigade?
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As the Brigade S-3 Sergeant Major? Say what? So I asked myself, “Self, where and what is the 128th Aviation Brigade?” Never heard of it, I had to find out what this outfit was all about. When I discovered that it was a transformation of the U.S. Army Aviation Logistics School (USAALS) into a brigade and its main mission was as AIT and NCO technical training I knew somebody had made a mistake, I was destined to be underutilized. You see, at the time I knew I would do more for the Army in an operational unit, any unit but not TRADOC. Was I ever surprised!
Upon arrival I was immediately overwhelmed. It is unlike any other unit I have been in or around, and they spoke TRADOCIAN, the language of Training and Doctrine Command! I soon found out that TRADOC builds the future force. It possesses dynamic leaders that can think critically, solve problems, understand mission command, and are masters of the military decision making process. The daily operational challenges and adjustments are mind boggling.
As the brigade S-3 SGM, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the 128th headquarters wasn’t a typical brigade staff. When the brigade was formed from USAALS the mission of a traditional brigade was overlaid on the mission and administration of a service school. And as the brigade S-3 SGM I had to get my head around it all. Unlike any other brigade, 128th S-3 has five different sections with disparate missions; the Operations section (OPS), Systems Integration Division (SID), Training Development Division (TDD), Registrar’s office (RO),
and Learning Technology Division (LTD).
Like any other unit the Operations Section manages the day to day operations of the brigade. I got that one, that is easy what I didn’t anticipate was the importance of the other sections. Having come from a 15P background and never attended training here did have an initial impact. I didn’t realize what it took to train an initial entry Soldier from basic combat training to become a member of Career Management Field 15 as an Aviation Maintainer. I quickly realized that the 128th is a more complex unit than I had anticipated, and it takes a team of outstanding NCOs, officers, and civilians to acculturate, educate and graduate an Aviation mechanic ready to make a difference at their first unit of assignment.
The Registrar Office functions in the same manner as a college registrar. All Students are classed up for the appropriate training to balance all components, Active, Guard and Reserve, with sufficient Soldiers to maintain Army aircraft. The RO records, tracks and maintains academic achievements for all the students through the Digital Training Management System (DTMS). Once course standards are achieved, the RO graduates students by inputting them into the Army Training Requirements and Resources System (ATRRS). RO reviews all records for academic, physical training, and behavior to determine the Distinguished and Honor graduates for each class. Unlike days gone by where the Soldiers were handed papers to carry around, the use of both DTMS and ATRRS gives each Soldier a permanent training record that follows them throughout their service. This automated record supports the Soldier for Life Program and the Army’s Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL).
The Training Development Division is responsible for defining and documenting all tasks required to train Soldiers in an orderly fashion. TDD analyzes current individual aviation maintenance training requirements while looking forward to support future aviation warfighting capabilities and implement the Army Learning Model. TDD closely collaborates with the two training battalions, 1st and 2nd Battalion, 210 Aviation Regiment, within the brigade, other 128th Aviation Brigade sections like the S-4 for facility requirements and USAACE, DOTD in developing aviation logistics and maintenance training requirements. Additionally, coordination with the Eastern/Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Sites (EAATS/WAATS) is paramount to ensuring a total force training concept. TDD is the hub for technical assurance as it manages the Critical Task and Site Selection Boards (CTSSBs). TDD analyzes, develops, and resources individual tasks and lesson plans to create relevant programs of instruction integrating skills/knowledge based training based off the CTSSBs upholding the high standard of aviation maintenance.
The Learning Technology Division provides information technology infrastructure and support for the 128th Aviation Brigade’s operation. They manage and support over 900 NIPR computers and devices and provide a closed network for training with over 1,500 training systems for all courses. A key component for the success of the Brigade is the relationship with the TRADOC Enterprise Classroom Program (ECP) ensuring infrastructure and technology relevance.
The System Integration Division works hand in glove with other elements of the aviation enterprise to identify, analyze and translate new training requirements into world class training devices. This close coordination between the Brigade and the enterprise ensures the acquisition and integration of all new aviation systems into the Brigade. The section is comprised of 15 NCOs and civilians that are responsible for 334 training devices valued in excess of $2 billion, 14 contracts, 60 different task orders, and have 20 device/asset moves ongoing totaling $20,000,000.
The 128th is not a place to come to if you are looking to “take a break.” I’ve only told you about the brigade S-3, someone else will have to fill you in on the rest of the brigade. Believe me, the work is demanding and complex, it takes experienced leaders who understand mission command and that have the ability to conceptualize, coordinate, synchronize, and plan while understanding the domains of DOTMLPF. If you are assigned to the Brigade, come prepared to work in a complex organization that will expand your horizons and don’t underestimate strategic importance of the mission. The 128th Aviation Brigade is a complex multi-tiered organization that has a myriad of moving parts all working in constant synchronization to make it work, it’s like manipulating a Rubik’s cube, move one color and you have impacted many others.
SGM James Etheridge is the 128th Aviation Brigade S-3 Sergeant Major stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA.