128th Aviation Brigade / By 1SG Zachary J. Ogilby: You started here, your Soldiers started here, and for the foreseeable future, every next-generation rotary wing maintenance Soldier will start here, in the 128th Aviation Brigade.
NCOs from 128th AVN BDE administer the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) to AIT Soldiers./ 128TH AVN. BDE. COURTESY PHOTO
This is not the Army Aviation Logistics School of yesterday and our organization has recently expanded its priorities. We’ve merged our fundamental mission of providing the world’s best-trained maintainers to the force with the development of our cadre into proven leaders. The brigade’s entire team has been solely charged with the data collection and validation of the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) and Expert Soldier Badge (ESB). We have also aligned training priorities to meet 21st-century demands through the deliberate integration of a locally refined Mission Essential Task List (METL). Lastly, our instructors have designed and implemented a comprehensive instructor progression model intended to provide a clear vision for individual achievement. With these measures, our team is fully prepared to return to the operational force as conceptually lethal NCOs.
On 17 November 2019, while most Americans were sleeping, Instructors and Drill Sergeants from the 128th Aviation Brigade were helping administer the Army’s First ESB course while simultaneously executing our 500th test of the new ACFT. This was the culmination of months of arduous planning after TRADOC selected our team of NCOs to develop the initial ESB grading and validation criteria. Likewise, the Center of Initial Military Training (CIMT) charged our unit with the data collection for calibrating the ACFT’s point scale. All the NCOs in our formation contributed to the success of these two groundbreaking programs and are subject matter experts in ACFT implementation, with over 3,000 tests administered. Our developmental gains from these enterprise-wide impacts will be spread throughout the military as our NCOs return to the fighting force.
In a unit with very few commissioned officers, execution of the brigade commander’s priorities through mission command is paramount. To accomplish command directives, our METL focuses heavily on developing our NCO’s leadership competencies and advanced understanding of the operational environment required of senior Army leaders. Following our METs, Instructors receive and deliver in-depth leader professional development on topics ranging from incoming Soldier sponsorship to talent management strategies. We also exercise mission command and provide trained Soldiers to the force through the execution of multi-day FTXs, certifying over 4,000 Soldiers on 50+ Common Skills Tasks that include hand grenade deployment, Call for Fire requests, and obstacle course execution. Concurrent with each FTX iteration, instructors are evaluated on Troop Leading Procedures and the operation of a Command Post, all in a field environment involving hundreds of troops. Through the accomplishment of these METs, our NCOs have advanced the unit into the next level of organizational achievement.
Finally, we have identified a need for standardized individual achievement. A prime example of this is the Instructor Progression Model which frames expectations of progress during the instructor’s three-year assignment. Within the first year of arrival, the NCO is expected to become certified as an instructor and earn the Basic Army Instructor Badge. As instructors move into their second and third years, they are given the option to run one of three tracks – akin to the aviator’s maintenance, safety, and instructor paths. NCOs are given a choice to track master instructor, operations, or leadership. This simple career matrix has proven to be successful in the alignment of organizational and individual priorities, providing clear direction for goal achievement. Our organization’s effort to enhance instructor development raised promotion rates to 42% of Instructor/Writer candidates selected for SFC.
In closing, there is a direct correlation between the prioritization of leader development and organizational success. By enabling our NCOs to lead the Army’s ESB and ACFT implementation, aggressively accomplish our METL, and produce the instructor progression model, our cadre enabled the unit to surpass all expectations of any training unit. We’re eager to release the next wave of war-fighter NCOs armed with advanced leadership abilities to your organizations as the 128th Aviation Brigade continues to cultivate NCOs who are genuinely above the best.
“Born Under Fire!”
1SG Zachary J. Ogilby is the first sergeant of Company B, 1st Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA.