Army Aviation

Revitalizing “5 by 5” Comms

One of my favorite films is a Paul Newman flick, the 1967 film, Cool Hand Luke. One of the most memorable phrases was “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” spoken at different points in the movie; first, by Strother Martin (the prison warden) and later Newman (as Luke, a young prisoner).

I like to focus on communication as one whose left brain (math, science, logic and reasoning) tends to overpower his right (imaginative thinking). I’ve noticed of late that as a society, we are experiencing a noticeable failure to communicate; and that can only be to the detriment of our society and quality of life.

In the past, before the phone, people spoke to one another. With the advent of telephonic communication, the personal aspect became slightly reduced. Now with the advances in technology (read as … smartphones) you merely look around and see people with their heads buried in an electronic device. We all know about the perils of using electronic devices while driving but attend a meeting or go to dinner, and everyone is on their device. You may argue that electronic communication is, after all, a form of communication, but I would argue that it’s the lowest common denominator of interpersonal communication.

If you’ve read up to this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “What the heck does this have to do with AAAA?” That’s a good question that deserves some explanation.

AAAA, like every other organization, sends out a plethora of electronic information in order to keep our membership informed on a timely basis. Unfortunately, like every other organization, we find that we fall into the industry norm and less than 25% ever open the correspondence. Email is simply becoming less and less effective as a communication tool. Occasionally, we revert to the old fashioned method and make a phone call in order to speak to another human at the far end. Sometimes, a friendly out-of-office greeting is received, but after leaving a voice message, no return call is ever received. However, when connection is achieved, it is a marvelous feeling to be able to accomplish coordination, pass information, and expand upon relationships.

Another example extends to a perceived lack of communication within Army Aviation itself, between the Army National Guard and Active components, over the Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI). This is a disturbing trend. One side states that communication is ongoing and personal; the other says no one is talking to them. Anonymous emails accuse AAAA of not taking “a stand” on behalf of one component over the other or, depending on what component you’re in, they accuse the AAAA of “being a shill” for the other component. Perhaps it’s time to refresh the concept of face-to-face communication.

Most recently a state adjutant general, quoted in Defense News on the transfer of Apaches from the National Guard, accuses the Army of rhetoric “…designed to dupe Congress and the American people…” Hyperbole is NOT communication. Perhaps it is time to actually speak and communicate with one another.

The spoken word is a beautiful gift to mankind. It looks to me that we’re treating it as the ugly tie one of our kids gave us for a birthday present; we put it in a drawer and forget about it. We should seek every opportunity to speak with people. In today’s dispersed environment that isn’t always possible and electronic communication helps us overcome the tyranny of distance. But, an email composed and sent, shouldn’t routinely be an action completed. We’ve got go strive to improve our communications within our Branch; it’s not Active vs Reserves vs Guard; it’s one Army and one Aviation Branch.

What we’ve got here should not be a failure to communicate

BG Howard W. Yellen, Ret.
31st President, AAAA
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