Army Aviation

Quiet Professionals

128th Aviation Brigade / By CPT Andrew J. Blik: Army Aviation will turn 75 on June 6, 2017 and the Army Aviation Branch celebrates its 34th anniversary on April 12th this year; both events representing a long and storied history of aviation within the Army and a bright vision for the future.

15R students from A/1-222d Avn. Regt. training with the new AH-64D landing gear trainer. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY MR. DAVE SWARTZE

The 128th Aviation Brigade (AB) in its most recent incarnation is the Army aviation’s maintenance training brigade celebrating its 5th year since reactivation. The 128th AB was “Born Under Fire” as a provisional brigade during Operation Just Cause in December 1989 and was activated on January 16, 1990. It continued to serve in Panama until inactivation in 1995. Reactivated February 1, 2012 to assume the mission from the Aviation Logistics School, the 128th AB is the third brigade in the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.

The 128th AB, located at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia trains more than 80% of the enlisted Soldiers in our Branch with a through put of 5,000 plus student Soldiers annually. I was curious how my crew chiefs and NCOs were trained and molded into expert maintainers. I soon discovered as a company commander in the 128th AB I was going to be one of those certifying their training.
The 128th AB is a very unique organization with no fluff in its structure – there are no places to hide. Every commissioned officer assigned to the brigade fills a key developmental (KD) position. Every NCO is assigned against validated student to instructor requirements and they are the reason why we can produce the quality Soldiers that we do.

My first command was A/1-210th Avn. Regt. I took the guidon at the height of the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI) which eventually made my mission to train OH-58D maintenance and armament repairers obsolete as the KWs were divested from the fleet. Consequently, the majority of my 15S/J instructors were cross trained and certified to teach the AH-64 courses. While that was occurring, the unit received its new mission to train Apache Armament (15Y), while maintaining the 151A Aviation Maintenance Technicians basic and advanced courses as well as the battalion headquarters and headquarters mission.

As my tour progressed, I became aware of the strategic importance of the brigade’s mission to the aviation enterprise. Each company contributed on a strategic level to deploying forces as the generating force. To illustrate, A/1-210th AV produced over 80 aviation maintenance warrant officer technicians through the Warrant Officer Basic Course and more than 800 Apache Armament Repairers in one year. That is the equivalent of producing enough “armament dogs” to fill over 40 Apache battalions/squadrons. My instructors bring their own combat experiences integrating them daily into the instruction making the training a more realistic and relevant experience.

The 128th is extraordinarily responsive to the needs of the Army. When I arrived we were operating on 3 training shifts, 24 hours a day, 5 days a week in an effort to ensure every CAB received the maintainers they needed to keep our fleet in combat. We reached a steady state of two shifts as the situation changed in theater. Now, however, as we look once again to “grow the Army” the 128th AB is postured to ramp up support requirements. We have measures in place to ensure that more graduates doesn’t mean we sacrifice training standards.

The brigade structure provides the customary mission command functions of any brigade but it wasn’t until I took my second command, that of the brigade HHC, that the inherent “school house” functions became apparent. The Brigade has a registrar which functions the same as a college registrar, forecasting our inbound load, ensuring we have the resources to execute training, inputting students into classes, recording academic progress and finally graduation certificates. The Brigade has the Systems Integration Division (SID), which in conjunction with the TRADOC capability managers (TCM) are the acquisition arm of the Brigade. The Training Development Division (TDD) works on a three year cycle to update the Programs of Instruction (POIs). TDD relies on the Critical Task Site Selection Boards (CTSSBs) selected from CABs to get honest feedback on what training is necessary, and where we need to focus more effort.

Prior to my assignment to the 128th AB I had no idea that this part of the Aviation enterprise existed, let alone did I fully appreciate what it takes to create great maintainers. Our branch is stronger because of the quiet professionalism of every NCO, DA civilian, officer and warrant officer who work tirelessly to turn out the best trained maintainers always ensuring that our aircraft are ready to fly when we strap in. Visit the 128th AB at JBLE and you will be amazed at the scope of the operation that produces Aviation Maintainers who are truly “Above the Best” in the world.

CPT Andrew J. Blik is the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 128th Aviation Brigade located at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA.