Army Aviation

Welcome Home and End of an Era!

Branch Command Sergeant Major / By CSM Eric C. Thom: Always do your best at any job you do regardless of how menial it seems. Any job worth doing is worth doing right. – Michael Eddie Ryan

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Some members of the 597th Maintenance Detachment Forward’s Special Repair Activity are recognized during a welcome home ceremony on October 7, 2015 at Fort Rucker, AL./ U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY FORT RUCKER PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Far too often when we talk about air traffic control we tend to focus on or talk about the controllers, or the equipment they use to keep our aviation assets in the air. Seldom have we talked about the people that maintain that equipment. This is completely reversed when it comes to the maintainers of our aircraft. Our crew chiefs, phase teams and back shop personnel are acknowledged by everyone as part of the community. That is not always the case with our Air Traffic Control Equipment Repairers. Part of that is because they are not seen by most of the community; and part of it is because they fall under the Ordnance Corps rather than the Aviation Branch. Whatever the reason, I am here to tell you that they are an important cog in the wheel that is Army Aviation.

Special Repair Activities
Every ATC unit has them and a good one is worth his or her weight in gold. Though they no longer are considered part of the Aviation Branch, we really can’t do without them. In this column, I want to focus on a specific element. The 597th Maintenance Detachment’s Forward Special Repair Activities (SRAs); previously known as F/58. They served as the Army’s only forward deployed Tactical Air Traffic Services (ATS) SRA in U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM). Throughout their tenure the SRAs provided on-system field and sustainment maintenance support to 12 geographically separated sites in three countries – In Iraq at Kirku Air Base, Al Sahra Army Airfield (AAF), Mosul AAF, Al Taji Army Heliport (AHP), Warhorse AHP, Liberty AHP, Washington AHP, and Baghdad International; in Afghanistan at Jalalbad AHP, Kandahar Air Base, and Salerno AHP; and in Kuwait at Camp Buehring AAF.

The SRAs served as the Directorate of Evaluations and Standards (DES) for ATC maintenance sections and equipment inspections. They also served as the main logistical hub and Supply Support Activity (SSA) for all ATS maintenance and Air Traffic Control (ATC) specific repair part supply in CENTCOM.

End of an Era
My first experience with them was my deployment to Kosovo 2000 to 2001 during KFOR 2B. F/58 supported my detachment at Camp Bondsteel with an SRA team. I knew then they were a cut above the average maintenance team in an ATC company. Their knowledge base was far greater than that of my company maintenance team, and I for one was glad to have them. A lot has changed in the ATC world including the size and location of the ATC companies across the army (now in the general support aviation battalions (GSABs)) but the SRA team’s duties and responsibilities have changed very little. They have been the constant quiet professionals, so much so in fact that few are aware of the streak that just ended. They are still the cream of the crop when it comes to ATC maintenance and they have been continuously deployed in support of CENTCOM since Jan of 2003. That is until now; that incredible streak ended with the return of SRA 24 when they were welcomed home at 0030 7 OCT 2015. It was a small ceremony attended by Brigade, Garrison and USAACE leadership and it brought to a close 12 years of continuous deployment for the company of 47.

The SRAs also have an uncommon characteristic, From SRA 2’s deployment in Nov of 2003 until the redeployment of SRA24 on 7 Oct 2015 not only have they been continuously deployed, but they have been led, trained and cared for by NCOs.

As an air traffic controller I can tell you we could not have provided the safe orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic without our maintainers. I can also tell you that just because this continuous deployment streak is over, there are many more deployments to come for these great Soldiers as the 597th Maintenance Detachment will continue to provide on-system field and sustainment maintenance support through its rapid response cells as needed throughout the world.

94Ds are a very small part of a company that is a very small part of Army Aviation but they are critical to our success. So if you run into one be sure to thank him or her for the job they do.

As always it is an honor to serve as your Branch Command Sergeant Major
Above the Best!
This We’ll Defend!

CSM Thom
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CSM Eric C. Thom is the command sergeant major of the Aviation Branch and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, AL.