Faces of the Force: Top-Notch staff fuels success for Apache program
April 4, 2013
FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?
HAGER: I am the project manager for the Apache, the world's premier attack helicopter. I'm responsible for the development, production, fielding and sustainment of the entire aircraft system, for the existing aircraft as well as the new platform. We currently have 791 Apaches in our fleet. The Soldiers who fly and maintain these helicopters are constantly in harm's way, and our work is important because it provides them with the safest and most reliable combat operation platform.
I've been in this position for six months, but I've been in this field for awhile. Previously, I was director of modifications for the Utility Helicopters PMO here at Redstone Arsenal, and I was the product director for Foreign Military Sales for the Program Executive Officer Aviation (PEO Aviation). I also worked as the Apache Block III product manager, where I was involved in designing the upgraded Apache (AH-64E) that we're now fielding.
FOTF: What's the biggest challenge you face?
HAGER: The combat units that fly the Apache have a very high operational tempo, which translates into a lot of wear and tear on the aircraft and a lot of repairs and maintenance. Additionally, there are a lot of units who are training to fly this aircraft, and they too put a lot of hours on the plane. For us, the challenge is making sure that we have the components and knowledge to keep the aircraft operational to ensure mission success.
FOTF: How do you overcome that challenge?
HAGER: We overcome this particular challenge with our exceptional project office personnel or "staff". The amount of knowledge that our personnel possess is impressive, and their work ethic and their technical expertise keep this office running. I know that for any challenge that comes up -- a business issue, a logistics matter, any developmental concerns, a contracting question -- we have the people on staff who can handle it.
We have top-notch logistics and sustainment personnel who provide in-depth knowledge of the aircraft, as well as fleet management personnel who can get equipment and planes to where they need to be. I can count on them to bring to my attention to the big issues, and they keep me apprised of what's going on. It's an honor to work with them as we keep the program running.
FOTF: How does the new Apache differ from previous models?
HAGER: It's the first Apache in 30 years to feature a new main transmission, and its engine has incredibly greater horsepower than in the past. It also features composite main rotor blades, and the end result of all those changes is an aircraft that can carry more weight at higher altitudes and operate in higher temperatures. It also includes a new onboard mission processor (computer) system designed with open source architecture, making it easier to add new hardware and software components.
FOTF: What challenges do you encounter with fielding the new Apache?
HAGER: The new Apache has 251 new, unique components not found in previous versions of the aircraft. So the biggest challenge is making sure that the components are available and we have the capabilities and equipment to properly sustain that aircraft.
We overcome this by using contractor logistics support, which means we provide a portion of the required parts to contractors who maintain the aircraft, and we have a good relationship with the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Ariz., to make sure the supply line flows smoothly. We'll get an even stronger handle on that challenge in October 2014, when we'll switch to a performance-based logistics operation that will give us a formalized standard operating system for sustaining the aircraft.
Here too, personnel play a key part. A large portion of our staff is comprised of former military people, and their experience is invaluable. And I know my staff has the expertise to figure out how to fix the new components and obtain replacement parts, all while keeping in mind Better Buying Power initiatives that will ensure that the units get what they need at a cost that's affordable.
FOTF: What do you do when you're not at work? How do your hobbies dovetail with your work?
HAGER: I love to run, particularly long distances: ultramarathons, or any race longer than 26.2 miles. My favorite distances are the 40- or 50-milers and the 50-Ks. My wife thinks I'm crazy. I'm also a member of a local Harley-Davidson riding club. Running or riding with people I work with provides another way to build relationships and it's a good way to get work done. The change in scene often leads to discovering different perspectives on a tough issue.
FOTF: Why did you join the Army? What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army?
HAGER: I joined the Army to initially leave the very small hometown I grew up in and to get an education. I was interested in airborne operations and the teamwork the Army builds when grouping individuals together from all over the United States. My greatest satisfaction is the feeling of being a part of something big. Everyone has a place and a mission, and it's rewarding to make a change in today's world.