Army Aviation

One Army, One Team, One Mission!

By CW5 Clarence W. Shockley: The Army Senior Leadership from the Secretary of the Army, the Chief of Staff of the Army down has embraced and is inculcating the “One Army!” Today we are faced with the challenge of supporting counter insurgency operations (COIN) while improving our skillsets necessary to conduct large scale combat operations (LSCO) to meet the “Mission” as outlined in the National Defense Strategy. The concept of LSCO is not new for many of us who were in the Army prior to 9/11, but it may be for many in our Branch who have joined since then.

U.S. Army aviation crews with the 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 150th Aviation Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard, prepare to take off in a UH-60L, front, and a UH-60M Black Hawk during an interagency coordination exercise at the Homeland Defense Technology Center, Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., June 14, 2019. / NEW JERSEY NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO BY MARK C. OLSEN

Today’s Army Aviation Team will have to master the tactics, techniques, procedures, while fully appreciating the aircraft capabilities necessary for the fight tonight while evolving to meet the challenges of multi-domain operations (MDOs). The Army has always been a multi-component force consisting of Active, Army National Guard and Army Reserve but it has also been One Army when called upon. Since 9/11, the U.S. Army has relied heavily upon Army Aviation as has been stated by the vice chief of staff of the Army and the senior army aviation leadership at this year’s Army Aviation Association of America’s (AAAA) recent summit. Simply put, it is in high demand by our combatant commanders.

Multi-component Aviation Force has been crucial to mission success as we have employed the total Army Aviation fleet of aircraft across the United States and around the globe (Active Component operating 49% of the fleet and the Army National Guard (ARNG) and the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) operating the remainder). In the past 17 years patch charts and “ARFORGEN” models show that we need the entire Army Aviation Team of Active, ARNG and USAR to meet our mission demand. As we move forward, Army Aviation will require a manned, trained and equipped force that is modernized and ready to ensure optimal interoperability and mission success in future LSCO/MDO scenarios.

Achieving parity has always proven difficult in resource/time constrained conditions. Saturated institutional training capacity produces fierce competition for instructional course seats between the components and is clearly recognized by the Army Leadership and is now being resourced to meet the needs of the Army. There will be manning and aircraft requirements that we will have to meet together. Equipment parity between Components has been a priority for DoD and Army leadership and is aligned to the maximum extent possible on who is next to deploy. We owe the best manning, training and equipment to those going out the door next.

A key factor in manning parity is retention of Army Aviators across all components of the Army. The total Army aviation force faces retention challenges, as we always have, based on a booming economy. We have always had our ups and downs in retention and the commercial airlines aging/retiring work force is only adding to the drain of our talent. We are continually experiencing migration of our Aviation Community between the Components as well, from Active to Guard and Reserve, from Guard and Reserve to Active and between the Guard and Reserve. DoD is suffering a critical loss of seasoned and talented professional aviators. The U.S. Congress originally addressed this issue with the Aviation Career Incentive Act of 1974. This Act provided aviation career incentive pay (ACIP) for all components and services. However, there was a concern that full ACIP would negatively incentivize a mass migration from each Service’s Active Component to their respective Reserve Components. Thus, U.S. Code and DoD policy maintained a policy of paying Reserve Component aviators 1/30th of a month’s incentive pay despite having to maintain the same flight readiness requirements.1

ACIP, now called AvIP has not been adjusted for the Army since 1999 and is currently capped at $840.00 dollars per month. Our Reserve Component Aviators are still paid at the fractional rate of the 1/30th rule for their services. The U.S. House of Representatives Report 93-799 (1974) made clear the intent behind AvIP was to place National Guard and Reserve aviators under the same pay incentives as the Active Component.2 Further, the 1974 Aviation Career Incentive Act defines the purpose of AvIP as rewarding the aviator for a professional commitment to the field and to attract and retain aviators. The current Congressional intent and DoD Financial Management Regulation make clear that AvIP is not “flight pay,” but instead, it is paid to those who make Army Aviation a career and maintain their flight status. In other words, it is based on years of Aviation Service period.

The Reserve Components of the Army are required to meet the same doctrinal training gates, minimum hours, and proficiency as COMP 1 aviators. Our Aviators who sustain a career in Army Aviation regardless of Component should be compensated the same and receive the full monthly allotment. As the risk component and career component of AvIP is the same for all COMPO(s), the 1/30th rule for this incentive pay does not recognize the commitment that the Total Army requires/depends upon for our Total Army Aviation team’s readiness. This was recognized over two decades ago by AAAA in their National Executive Board resolution and is recognized today by The Military Coalition (TMC) with letters to the Congressional Committees to put an end to the 1/30th rule by changing the U.S. Code and DoD Policy to allow the individual Service Secretaries to pay full AvIP to all their Components.

There is also another effort underway by the U.S. Army under the Deputy Chief of Staff Personnel (DCSPER) called “Talent Management” which will address how best to manage and compensate our future force. Army Aviation is looking at ways to compensate those who grow professionally and seek additional duties and responsibilities over time. While this all looks promising it will most likely take another 3-5 years.

Bottom line, the Army is “One Army” and we need to compensate all our components the same when it is based on professional commitment and meeting the call of the nation! Elimination of the 1/30th Rule is a great step forward and we all need to be behind it!

1Aviation Career Incentive Pay, Defense Report DR-07-1, AUSA Institute of Land Warfare (2007)
2 House Report No. 93-799 (Committee on Armed Services), pg. 21, accompanying H.R. 12670, 93d Congress, 2d Session (1974).

CW5 Clarence W. Shockley is the standardization officer of the Aviation and Safety Division of the Army National Guard in Arlington, VA.