Army Aviation

Readiness is a Team Sport

Aviation Maintenance / By MG James M. Richardson: We make better decisions when we have less money. –Steve Wozniak, Co-Founder,
Apple Computer:

It is fifteen years since I deployed with my Apache battalion to Afghanistan during the earliest stages of Operation Enduring Freedom. At that moment in time, Army Aviation had spent the previous ten years training for combat at a reduced operational tempo (OPTEMPO), and essentially living off the parts purchased to support Operation Desert Storm. While we were trained and proficient in our battle tasks, Army Aviation as a whole was not prepared to sustain deployed forces in combat for an extended period. In Afghanistan, we kept our aircraft flying and fighting only because every member of the Aviation enterprise made extraordinary efforts to find and ship parts to us.

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UH-60 shown with cockpit, transmission, engines, and tail rotor covers at Dobbins AFB, March 2009. AMCOM has a corrosion program that conducts Soldier training and also research into ways to prevent and defeat corrosion on Army aircraft / U.S. ARMY AMRDEC PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Today, after more than thirteen years of sustained high-intensity combat operations, Army Aviation faces what could be a prolonged period of reduced OPTEMPO, driven by a reduction in flying hours and the dollars that come with them. Budget reductions driving flying hour reductions also reduce the sustainment funds that AMCOM controls. This reduces the number of spare parts that we can purchase; engineering support provided to Air Worthiness and procurement; post-production (legacy systems) software support; updates to publications; application of modifications to aircraft; and test measurement equipment (TMDE) growth capacity. These reductions in multiple support tasks will gradually result in higher costs per hour flown.

My point in writing this article is to discuss how AMCOM and the entire community can take sound steps to achieve sustainable readiness now and into the future. Although none of us in the Army Aviation Enterprise directly control the resourcing decisions, we do have a significant ability to apply available resources effectively. Our challenge, and I firmly believe this is a challenge that our entire community must attack collectively, is to devise creative near, mid, and far term solutions to the challenge of sustaining a well-trained, deployable, and agile Aviation force. This article will list the steps that AMCOM is taking in this regard, and members of my organization will provide more details on selected programs in subsequent articles. I will also point out where we are engaged with our Enterprise partners to maximize our contributions.

AMCOM executes multiple actions that can be separated into near, mid, and long-term benefit to the warfighter and the Army. All of these actions are in motion TODAY, and they all address affordability. I will discuss a few of the key concepts in the following paragraphs, but I must stress the TEAM concept is integral to each of these actions. AMCOM cannot execute these actions alone, rather we want to spark the conversation for the Enterprise to collectively attack the situation.
Long Term: I believe that reducing the life-cycle sustainment costs of our major weapons systems is an important action for the long-term health of our Branch. We must work together to produce capability development documents (CDD) that adequately capture sustainability as key performance parameters (KPPs) and key system attributes (KSAs). I believe that Reliability, Sustainability and Maintainability must be KPPs if we’re going to succeed in reducing life cycle costs. I also know that these are difficult trade-offs to achieve and that is why I want our entire Enterprise to address this. I believe our industry partners are willing and ready to take on these challenges, and will accept rigorous metrics in our design process. It’s our challenge to develop requirements and suitable metrics to drive us to greater weapon system availability.

LAR Will Owens provides over the shoulder training in Korea. AMCOM LARs are trained to be multifunctional and are now stationed at combined training centers (CTCs) as well as with deploying units.

To ensure success in this complex life cycle sustainment challenge, I commit to support the manning requirements of the Program Offices with the best logisticians. These professionals do the hard work of building detailed system sustainment plans, and also the supporting analyses. AMCOM liaison officers in Aviation TRADOC Capability Managers’ (TCMs) offices will also bring long-term benefits to our Branch. I also advocate retaining the government’s right to purchase tech data, when it makes sense, as this data is often key to building and executing cost-effective repair programs.

At the depots, in addition to seeking ways to improve every facet of our operations, we are linking Army Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems: Global Combat Support System (GCSS)-Army, the Logistics Modernization Program (LMP), and the Complex Assembly Manufacturing Solution (CAMS) – to maximize the use and benefits of these tool sets. Additionally, AMCOM supports the integration of Unit Level Logistics System-Aviation (Enhanced)(ULLS-A(E)) into GCSS-Army, another long-term effort that pays dividends to the total Aviation force.

Mid-Term: The above solutions will generate significant savings, but the time horizon is measured in the 10-15 year window. In the mid-term, we believe there is opportunity for immediate savings. We work with the PM-Utility now to integrate a new scheduled maintenance logic into the UH-60M program. We want to challenge the conventional wisdom on when and at what level we execute our scheduled maintenance, pushing the majority of our unscheduled maintenance into the scheduled arena. It’s all about decreasing the burden on the warfighter by giving them predictability in their operations. Additionally, AMCOM is investing a percentage of available Army Working Capital Fund investment dollars (this money is normally used to fund spare parts procurement contracts) to fund improvements to obsolete, poor performing, or overly costly spares. Our successful “value engineering” program, coupled with this investment strategy, gives the warfighter better parts to meet readiness requirements.

Short Term: In the short-term, our Soldiers MUST get back to doing as much of their maintenance mission as possible. Doing more maintenance will result in better training for our Soldiers and leaders, and in the leader development of our young Soldiers. Costs will decrease with less reliance on contractor maintenance personnel. More familiarity with their equipment will increase our Soldiers’ proficiency in maintenance, troubleshooting, safety, and deployment-related tasks, all critical skills that we must maintain and grow.

Steps to support Soldier training include improving the training and capabilities of our Logistics Assistance Representatives (LARs) who are AMCOM’s embedded supply and maintenance advisors in our supported units. We also offer Soldiers the opportunity to train at our “LAR-University,” and also at Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD), where maintainers can learn advanced troubleshooting and component repair capabilities.

We bring combat aviation brigade (CAB) leadership to AMCOM to conduct a series of training events we call “AMCOM 101,” to ensure our leaders know how to tap into AMCOM’s resources. These training-related actions will continue indefinitely and generate improved Soldier and leader proficiency and effectiveness for years to come.

Throughout this edition of Army Aviation, AMCOM commanders and leaders will provide more details on things we’re doing to support our Aviation Warfighters. AMCOM remains focused on enabling readiness throughout the Army, and our focus is to remain the best teammate possible across the Aviation Enterprise. AMCOM works multiple efforts to enhance the affordability facing our units, while simultaneously supporting the Army Chief of Staff’s priority of maintaining readiness. We must integrate our efforts with the entire community: the PEO/PMs, scientists and engineers, contracting specialists, and our industry partners – to best attack this challenge.

I look for your help and suggestions on ways we can do our business better, so that our Warfighters can focus on training for their combat missions. I look forward to the dialogue – Army Strong!

MG James M. Richardson assumed command of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL on June 12, 2014.