Foley leaves behind lasting impact, legacy
April 25, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 25, 2013) -- Impact. George W. "Bill" Foley made tons of it within Army Aviation and with countless people, and now the loss of the man reverberates throughout the Branch and beyond.
Foley, a retired chief warrant officer 5 and Aviation project officer for the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Directorate of Training and Doctrine, passed away from an illness April 16.
Foley directly influenced many major Aviation programs over his 30 years of active service, according to Robert D. Carter, deputy director of DOTD.
"He was instrumental in the fielding of the night vision goggles, the testing and development of tactics, techniques, and procedures for air-to-air combat, the development of the Aircrew Coordination Program that greatly enhanced Aviation safety, and the development of the AH-64 initial test and evaluation training program," Carter said. "He also conducted a comprehensive review of the simulation devices for the Aviation Branch that resulted in an increase in funding priorities at the Department of Army."
He also stretched his reach beyond U.S. borders by developing Aviation training programs for The Netherlands, Egypt, Greece, and Bahrain, and while assigned to the Royal Netherlands Air Force, accomplished a total rewrite of their Aviation doctrine, Carter added.
"He always found a way to challenge himself and be the first at what the Army or his units needed," he added.
Foley began his Army Aviation journey in 1969, serving in Vietnam as an AH-1 Cobra pilot, and also flew the UH-1 Iroquois, OH-6 and AH-64 Apache. After retiring from active duty, he took a civilian job with DOTD, where his impact continued, according to Teresa Strickland, operations officer with DOTD, and Barbara Harper, project management supervisor with the directorate, who both said they worked with him for about 20 years.
"He was our supervisor for a while when he was the deputy director and then, of course, as a civilian coworker we were in daily contact with him. I would say we were friends," Strickland said. "He was a person of absolute integrity and he wanted to be the best at anything he set out to do. He took a great deal of pride in doing things in an excellent way. Professionally and personally, he went out of his way to do whatever he could, and whatever he did, it was done right."
Strickland and Harper said Foley mentored and helped many young Aviators during his career.
"He helped a lot of people who were nameless to us -- they know who they are, but we don't know," she said. "But he mentored them -- young warrant officers especially, and sometimes helped them with their careers or their personal issues He had impact on a lot of people."
One of those young Aviators was retired Col. Rich Knapp, the director of USAACE Quality Assurance, who recalled a time in 1985-86 with CW4 "Wild Bill" Foley at Fort Carson, Colo.
"He truly was a mentor to myself and all of the young lieutenants serving at their first duty station," he said. "He taught us how to be professional Army officers, cavalrymen and Aviators, while at the same time enforcing the respect due to commissioned officers from the numerous warrant officers he also mentored," Knapp said.
Foley's reach extended well beyond the U.S. Army, as well, according to Australian Lt. Col. Stephen Jobson, liaison officer for his country at USAACE.
"Bill Foley was the definition of professional," Jobson said. "He was always well presented, knowledgeable and hard working to ensure the liaison officers were effective. He always made the time to listen, engage and assist with our requirements."
Jobson then listed numerous programs and ways Foley helped the Aviation communities of difference countries, and then summarized, "the next time you wonder who did the work to bring the numerous Army Aviation capabilities of the major allies of the United States together as a harmonious fighting coalition, think of Mr. Bill Foley."
But while Foley proved masterful at guiding and assisting the foreign Aviators at Fort Rucker, it was his personal touch that created the most impact.
"Bill genuinely cared for us and our Families," Jobson said. "In the days before a hurricane or in the event of impending tornadoes, Bill would drive to our homes and check in with our Families to ensure we were well prepared. If our spouses or children were sick or hospitalized, he would always take the time to visit and bring a smile to our faces. All the liaison Families came to love Bill, because they all came to experience the love Bill had for them. That is why we regard ourselves as a Family."
That feeling stretched through his many American coworkers, as well, said Strickland.
"He was not an angel, he was not a perfect person," she said. "He was one of those people that are larger than life. He wanted to be the best at everything … he knew everyone … and he was accustomed to being the sharpest guy in the room -- in dress and mentally -- he was very smart.
"We have fond memories of him, but he was special to a lot of people. It's not always what a person said or did for you -- it's how they made you feel."
And Foley, "had that way of making you feel special -- it's just what he did," Harper added. "We are greatly missing him."