By MAJ Zachary F. De Groot and MSG Mark A. McKain: The 128th Aviation Brigade produces quality Aviation Maintainers for the operational force. The Brigade sets high standards for every member of its ranks because it is shaping the future of Army Aviation through the training of every Initial Entry Training (IET) Aviation Maintainer student.
Aviation maintainers require proficiency in their military occupational skill (MOS)-specific tasks and must be fully prepared to endure the rigor of the increasingly lethal and expanded battlefield in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO).
SSG Christopher Maxwell, 1-210th Aviation Regiment, trains AIT Soldiers on the proper method to request medical evacuation.
On February 14th, 2019, the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commander GEN Stephen Townsend passed his intent to increase the already high quality of Soldiers in the U.S. Army by continuing the acculturation process that is initiated in Basic Combat Training – more commonly known as increasing “rigor” in advanced individual training (AIT). This process consists of five focus areas; Shoot, Move, Communicate, Survive, and Discipline and Warrior Spirit. Through guidance given from the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) the 128th AB established working groups to develop its strategy to meet the TRADOC CG’s intent. 1-222d Aviation Battalion, the 128th’s IET unit that the Army’s premier trainers, Drill Sergeants are assigned took lead on the implementation of the Brigade’s strategy. During this initial planning phase, the Drill Sergeants identified training that was currently conducted and expanded its scope to encompass many of the requirements defined by USAACE.
Initial guidance specified that the increase in Rigor must include a culminating 72 hour field training exercise (FTX) with a focus on a realistic and rigorous Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) driven scenarios that certifies all Soldiers in their MOS-specific tasks in an austere field environment. The FTX reinforces the skills learned in basic combat training (BCT) and is a graduation requirement.
128th AB began by identifying and verifying the resource requirements to sustain Soldiers in the field training environment. Resource challenges which affected both students and instructors were identified, and courses of action (COAs) were developed to mitigate resource shortages in the areas of an initial issue at Central Issuing Facility (CIF) and organization property. During this phase, the Brigade conducted two one day training events that enabled battalions to refine their respective training lanes and train and certify leaders in the various events.
After completing the FTX development and certification, the Brigade moved to validate the FTX in August 2019. Three 72-hour FTXs were executed to confirm the strategy, concept of operation, and command and control. The FTX is a resource-intensive event which requires the participation of elements from across the 128th AB and the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy-Eustis (NCOA-E). Across the three days of the FTX, battalions are responsible for one of three training sites where the Soldiers are exposed to the following events: 1. Land Navigation/Ethical Decision Making, 2. Communication STX/Obstacle Course, and 3. Grenade Assault Course/Engagement Skills Trainer/Downed Aircraft Recovery Team FTX. Additional events to increase rigor in AIT and prepare Trainees for the FTX include weapons immersion, road marches, and combatives.
TRADOC Regulation 350-6 (09 August 2019) requires AIT to conduct no less than a three day and two night (72-hour minimum), culminating FTX in an austere field environment that integrates warrior tasks and battle drills (WTBDs) and MOS tasks in a rigorous, realistic, DATE-driven scenario. The completion of the FTX results in awarding a military occupational skill in the designated field of study.
128th AB’s number one priority is to maintain relevance to the operational force by providing disciplined, physically fit, technically proficient Aviation maintenance Soldiers that can contribute to the fight. Aviation maintenance Soldiers will arrive better equipped and ready to deploy, fight, and win our nation’s wars.
Born Under Fire!
MAJ Zachary F. De Groot is the 128th Aviation Brigade Operations Officer and MSG Mark A. McKain, the S3 NCOIC at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA.