President’s Cockpit / BG Howard W. Yellen, Ret.: As this is my last Cockpit article, it’s hard to believe I am approaching the end of my two year tenure as your President; the time has quickly passed, but as the adage goes, all good things must come to an end.
I look back over the last two years and can’t help but reflect on the many accomplishments our Association has achieved; all through the dedicated efforts of our volunteers at both the National and Chapter level.
We have rebranded AAAA to more accurately reflect what our membership desired: the ability to Network, to be appropriately Recognized, to have a Voice at unit as well as national level, and to be able to get Support from the Association when required. These four pillars have served us well to underpin our purpose for existence – Supporting the Army Aviation Soldier and Family.
Over the last two years we’ve provided funding totaling over $200,000 to support chapter activities ranging from dining-out events to pre/post-deployment ceremonies, to golf tournaments and a host of other events.
Our Scholarship Foundation has awarded $835,000 to 520 deserving young men and women in pursuit of higher education. These scholarships continue to be merit based and our Chapters have excelled at raising funds in order to receive matching scholarships. Additionally, AAAA has continued to underwrite all administrative expenses (in excess of $180,000 over two years) so that every dollar contributed goes to a scholarship.
Our members continue to be the heart of the Association. We’ve dipped slightly from our all-time high of 20,000, but much of that dip can be attributed to reduction in deployed aviation soldiers and thus fewer complimentary memberships. Acquiring membership growth in the future will continue to be a challenge as our Army, and Army Aviation, continue to drawdown. Remaining relevant to our current, as well as future potential members, must remain one of our primary objectives.
Over the last two years we’ve created a formal policy and procedures document for the Army Aviation Hall of Fame, revised our Bylaws to ensure currency, eliminated the voluminous Info File and digitized critical information from it into our Web Site, redesigned that web site so it’s intuitive and informative both on desktop as well as mobile platforms, improved our marketing and communication efforts, and developed quantitative as well as qualitative means to evaluate and assist our 70 Chapters worldwide.
We’ve presented over 140 national and functional awards to some of the most amazing officers, warrant officers, Soldiers, civilians and contractors I have ever seen. Their accomplishments have been exceptional and inspirational. Over 700 Orders of St. Michael (OSM Bronze, Silver, Gold and Knight) awards and Lady of Loreto awards have been presented by both National and our Chapters.
Our transition from a convention to a Professional Summit has been an overwhelming success. Reducing it to 2.5 days, recreating the Hall of Fame induction ceremony into our formal ‘Oscar’ night event, and concluding the Summit with an informal Soldier Appreciation concert has drawn plaudits from everyone. Sending busses to Fort Campbell to provide transportation for soldiers and opening a Soldier café to reduce out of pocket expenses is just another example of supporting our Soldiers and their families.
As I said earlier, this is a tribute to all our volunteers. They extend from our National level such as the National Executive Group, our National Executive Board, and our committee chairmen to our chapter presidents and their leadership teams. Add in the National Office under the leadership of our Executive Director, Bill Harris, and it’s clearly evident as to why the last two years have been so successful for your professional Association. I am deeply indebted to all who have been so supportive to our initiatives over these past two years.
The next several years will be a challenge for Army Aviation. Critical downsizing, reduction in modernization efforts, continued attacks on the Aviation budget, all while maintaining a substantial OPTEMPO, will put a strain on the Branch. What will remain constant is the backing Aviation will receive from AAAA to ensure Aviation Soldiers and their families are supported. My best wishes to BG (Ret.) EJ Sinclair as he assumes the gavel; our Association is in good hands.
BG Howard W. Yellen, Ret.
31st President, AAAA