Aviation Branch Chief / By MG William K. Gayler: On April 12, 1983, the Army created the Aviation branch, effectively manifesting a profound change in how we thought about the structure, organization, and employment of aviation assets within the Army.
Soldiers assigned to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade stand in formation and salute during the Apache Welcome Ceremony June 9, 2016, at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii. The Brigade received 24 AH-64 Apache helicopters to add to their arsenal, replacing their retired OH-58 Kiowa Warriors. / U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO BY SSGT. CHRISTOPHER HUBENTHAL
The factors that drove this fundamental change – such as increasing complexity in training, manning, and procurement – underscored the necessity to change in order to remain relevant. These same factors that spurred the creation of the Aviation Branch are still as powerful today.
The growth, capability changes, and demands placed upon our branch from its inception to today have been significant. The men and women of the Army Aviation Team heavily invested our Nation’s blood and treasure to confront and overcome our military’s most difficult, complex, and wicked problems. It is no surprise that upon completion of each task, our team emerges stronger and more capable. The last decade and a half of continuous conflict attests to the strength and adaptability of our Soldiers.
Over the past few years, the problem sets facing our community have become more complex. In the face of sustained operational demand, budget uncertainty, and mandated manning reductions, the Army Aviation community was forced to reevaluate and clearly articulate how we would accomplish the missions regardless of challenges. The solution to that challenge is Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI).
The Aviation Enterprise and ARI
The Aviation Restructure Initiative is the largest and most complex transformation that our branch has ever undertaken. The divestment of aircraft, reallocation of equipment, and reclassification of proud and storied organizations are just a few of the visible actions, with the most wide-reaching changes happening this year. At the beginning of FY16, the ARI was only 30 percent complete. By the end of FY16, the ARI will be over 80 percent complete. This is not an easy task, nor one that can be accomplished without complete unity of effort. Our ability to accomplish such a feat while continuing to support our Army’s commitments is a testament to the teamwork and dedication of the community of stakeholders we call the Aviation Enterprise.
The Aviation Enterprise has existed since the birth of the Branch. However, over the past several years, the leaders and organizations that comprise the Enterprise (U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE), Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM), Program Executive Office-Aviation (PEO-AVN), Technology Applications Program Office (TAPO), DAMO-AV/DA G-3, and U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC)) and those in supporting roles (DAMO-FDV/DA G-8, DALO-MNA/DA G-4), along with force providers (Army National Guard (ARNG), U.S. Army Reserve (USAR), Forces Command (FORSCOM), U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) and U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR)) have unified in process and action to solve the challenges before us while simultaneously preparing for the complexities of the future. This robust team assesses current capabilities within the Enterprise, identifies gaps as they relate to the Army Operating Concept, and develops the comprehensive strategies to eliminate those gaps. The ARI is the most significant of those strategies developed.
Signs of Success
The synchronization and execution of the ARI process has not been easy, but the visible signs of successful transition have begun to take shape in the newly organized CABs, the ongoing modernization of all airframes, and in plans for near-, mid-, and long-term transformation. Within this framework, the development and training of our Aviation leaders is essential. They provide the foundation that binds our community together to withstand the disruption of a profound transformation enacted while continuing to support our military’s unrelenting demand for world-class aviation support. These leaders are our most important weapon system, harnessing the full potential of emerging technology. In the near term, we continue to foster the Improved Turbine Engine Program, the necessary power expansion that will carry us through to the next generation of aircraft. In the midterm, we see the improvement in aircraft survivability equipment, enhancements to degraded visual environment solutions and development of small guided munitions. In the long term, the Enterprise is shaping the development and acquisition of Future Vertical Lift.
Through the shared vision, relationships, and collaboration within the Aviation Enterprise – like those we see in the Army officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer, enlisted, and Department of the Army civilian leaders highlighted in this Blue Book edition of AAAA Magazine – we will continue to maximize our military’s valuable and finite resources to prepare for the challenges that await. The Holistic Army Aviation Task Force (HAATF) will soon release their recommendations that will influence every element of the aviation team. Similarly, the National Commission on the Future of the Army and its associated recommendations regarding aviation’s critical role will almost certainly guide future congressional actions affecting our branch. Each of these tasks will require us to synchronize efforts across the Aviation Enterprise – a challenge that we gladly accept.
With each trial we endure, the Aviation Enterprise legacy emerges stronger, aggressively innovative, and effectively trained to face the known enemy of today and the unknowable adversary of tomorrow.
As we continue to answer our Nation’s call to serve, I want to thank you and all of your Families for everything that you do. Your dedication and sacrifice do not go unseen and unappreciated.
Above the Best!
MG William K. Gayler is the Army Aviation branch chief and commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, AL.