Army Aviation

Ties That Bind: Camaraderie

128th Aviation Brigade / By SSG Andrew D. Hill: In 2004, I arrived at Fort Eustis, Virginia and was assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 222nd Aviation Regiment, 8th Transportation Brigade. I attended training at the U.S. Army Aviation Logistics School (USAALS) and was trained as a 15Y10 (AH-64D Armament/ Electronics/ Avionics Repairer) MOS. While the Army has imparted numerous skills and life lessons to me, I was introduced to its greatest lesson in Advanced Individual Training – camaraderie.

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SSG Andrew D. Hill as he graduated from AIT in 2004, and working as an instructor today. / PHOTOS PROVIDED BY SSG HILL

Fast forward to 2015, now a staff sergeant, I’ve returned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE), and USAALS has become the 128th Aviation Brigade. This time I am a mentor and leader in the world of Army Aviation, charged with strengthening camaraderie.

128 bUpon receiving orders to be an instructor, as with any permanent change of station (PCS) there was a measure of anxiety and apprehension but I was excited and eager to explore a new facet of my career; the Army had selected me to impart my experience and train a new generation of AH-64D/E maintainers, which offered a unique challenge and a chance at a different perspective given my position as a non-commissioned officer. Dozens of questions abounded: Where will I live? What are the policies specific to this installation? What’s the weather like? Who will be my sponsor?

Soon after receiving orders, I was contacted by a sponsor in my gaining unit. The Total Army Sponsorship Program (AR 600-8-8) dictates the rapid integration of in-coming personnel, and in short order I had received information to assist in my transition. He offered me guidance, as well as collecting information about me to be better able to assess my strengths and needs. In addition, I put feelers out on social media to my fellow “Armament Dawgs” (the informal name given 15Ys). I was immediately bombarded with responses to several of my questions, and even offered a temporary place to live. Things were looking up, but I was looking for more than a promise of loyalty on the internet. So, apprehensively I packed my bags and headed across the country, uncertain what awaited me, but eager for something new. What I found was that the promise of loyalty made over the internet was real.

I received a warm welcome from the same peer that had promised me a place to stay; while he wasn’t an “Armament Dawg” he was a 15F30 (UH-60 and CH-47 Electronics/Avionics systems repairer) with whom I had served two combat tours. I arrived at JBLE, signed in and was greeted by another familiar face: the NCO on staff duty was another peer with whom I had served and deployed. After catching up, I was on my way. In the weeks to follow, it seemed there was a familiar friendly face around every corner.

Part of the induction to the brigade was enrollment in the Brigade’s Green Platoon; the element in which new Soldiers are introduced to, and trained for, their transition into Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). The platoon lays out the strategic impact of their positions while providing time to situate their families and establish their households before attending the Cadre Training Course (CTC), the Aviation Basic Instructors Course (ABIC) and beginning their tour.

Currently, it has been roughly 10 weeks since my arrival, and I cannot throw a rock without hitting someone that I have served with previously; I am literally surrounded by the people I have spent years building a professional relationship with. Their familiarity and willingness to help me succeed in my current career path has given me an established sense of cohesion with my new unit, and made me feel a sense of loyalty as a newcomer. Given this sense of allegiance, I am in turn eager to become a contributing member of this team, and am keen to commit my support in accomplishing our mission.

As an NCO in the Aviation Branch, my peers and I are aggressive in developing and fostering a future generation of “Armament Dawgs” who are technically competent and who can develop binding ties that can support Army Aviation Maintenance. The Total Army Sponsorship Program sets guidelines to welcoming new Soldiers to our unit to build cohesion, but this cohesion is increased exponentially by the familiar face of true brothers/sisters-in-arms.

SSG Andrew D. Hill is an instructor/writer with Company A, 1st Battalion, 210 Aviation Regiment, 128th Aviation Brigade, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA.