More than 150 Army Aviation brigade commanders, command chief warrant officers and command sergeants major across the Army’s active duty, National Guard and Reserve components descended on Fort Rucker Jan. 31 – Feb. 2 to hear from senior leaders and tackle key issues facing the Aviation branch.
The theme of this year’s Aviation Senior Leader Forum was “Regaining Decisive Action Readiness.”
The lineup of guest speakers for the event included leaders across the Army Aviation enterprise, as well as multiple commands and centers, including Headquarters Department of the Army, Training and Doctrine Command, Forces Command, the Combined Arms Center, Army Materiel Command, Special Operations (Aviation) Command and the Maneuver Center of Excellence.
Event host Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, in an opening session Jan. 31 set the tone by focusing on how to win in a “globally challenged environment.”
“The focus of this ought to be, when you get called you go with what you’ve got,” Gayler said. “There’s not going to be a widget fielded to solve any current challenge you have. The only way to get at it is to build readiness through training and leader development, and re-focus back on our doctrine,” the branch chief said.
To win on complex battlefields of the future “takes all of us, focused on building readiness, and regaining decisive action readiness, solely tied to the ground commander as his capability,” he said.
Gayler described Army Aviation as “a professional and modernized force solely focused on ground troops that must generate options for combatant commanders in terms of reach, protection and lethality, to win on any battlefield.”
The Army’s solution to meet the demand for Army Aviation globally includes rotational forces, based on current capacity.
“We have requirements of about 35 battalions committed today on any given date across the globe and it’s heavily active component. We’ve got to break the code on reserve components offsetting some of that deployment tempo,” Gayler said. “You’re going to be busy. We need to make sure you’re busy in the right areas.”
Among the challenges facing the branch is a manning shortage, which requires a deliberate surge to ramp up institutional training–including an increase of aircraft, instructor pilots, and simulations support.
Gayler said current Aviation requirements include the Improved Turbine Engine, Chinook Block II upgrade, continued improvement with the Aviation Survivability Equipment suite, degraded visual environment operability, munitions combinations for better precision and long-range capability, runway-independent Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and Future Vertical Lift.
“We’ve got to have the speed, range, power and endurance, agility at the objective area to be effective,” Gayler said.
Gayler told leaders to train to the highest level readiness they can achieve.
“Train the collective strategy in the aviation training strategy. Don’t train to flying hours, don’t train to a limitation. Train to your greatest capability collectively you can get to,” Gayler said.
Gayler encouraged participants to familiarize themselves with a new comprehensive Aviation Leader Development Strategy developed at USAACE.
He encouraged leaders to provide feedback, and also to seek counsel from retired Aviation leaders.
Winning in a complex world requires providing multiple options to the commander to present multiple dilemmas to the enemy, according to Gen. David G. Perkins, commanding general of Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Eustis, Virginia.
In a session focused on the Future Force of 2025 and Beyond, Multi-Domain Battle and the Army Operating Concept, Perkins emphasized more holistic thinking and an integrated approach, where problem sets from the beginning are viewed as cross-functional, multi-domain, and where achieving ‘windows of superiority’ in the battle space is key.
“If we want to preserve freedom of maneuver, because we’re saying that’s our ace in the hole, we can’t go domain by domain–and have land domain take on land domain, air domain take on the air domain,” Perkins said.
“I will pick some place in my area of operations, and bring together cyber, space, air, maritime, land–and will get domain superiority for a certain amount of time or over a certain amount of area,” he explained. “I’ve got to figure out where to maneuver this capability to get to positions of advantage and then consolidate my gains such that it puts me at a permanent advantage.”
Lt. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, commanding general, Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, spoke about Unified Land Operations in large-scale land warfare.
“The silver bullet, in my mind, and what’s going to solve the problem is training and leader development, and a highly trained, very professional force that understands how to warfight and how to execute our current doctrine and be able to apply it in a multi domain environment.
“The principles, tenants, aspects of maneuver are not going to be different. The environment we’re going to be executing them in is going to be different,” Lundy said.
Day 2 session topics included Aviation enlisted training, sustaining Aviation readiness, an update from the acquisition community, manning to maintain readiness, and the Movement and Maneuver functional concept.
With readiness as its top priority, the Army is looking to become more agile and adaptive in personnel management, according to Lt. Gen. James C. McConville, deputy Chief of Staff, Department of the Army G-1, Pentagon.
“We’re moving from an industrial age personnel management system to a 21st century talent management system that will fundamentally change the way we do business,” McConville said.
On Day 3, the event’s focus was working group topics from breakout sessions, including expeditionary operations, unit training/readiness, multi-component training, and UAS integration.