New Policy Makes Soldier UAV Operators Eligible for Aviation Badge
May 7, 2007
By Rob Martinez
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. - U.S. Army Intelligence Center Soldiers in the new qualifying career fields and military occupational specialties of 96U and 35K, enlisted and warrant officer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle operator, received aviation badges April 26 in a pinning ceremony here. As aviation specialists, these Soldiers now fulfill the requirement for the badges.
There are three levels of Aviation Badges. The Army Aviation Basic Crewmember Badge is awarded upon successful completion of advanced individual training in a designated career field or military occupational specialty. The Army Aviation Senior Crewmember Badge is awarded upon successful completion of seven years in flight status or 10 years of non-flight experience in a principal duty assignment for designated specialties to Soldiers who have attained the rank of E-4 or higher. Soldiers who have attained the grade of E-6 or higher and completed 15 years in flight status or 17 years of non-flight experience in a principal duty assignment for designated specialties are awarded the Army Aviation Master Crewmember Badge.
Maj. Gen. Virgil Packett, commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center and Fort Rucker, Ala., spoke at the wing pinning ceremony.
Packett explained that presently, the Unmanned Aerial Systems are in highe demand on the battlefield, and the Soldiers who operate and maintain them are an integral part of the military's overall capability.
"We still don't know what it [UAS] all can do," the aviation branch chief said. "But we do know that we are going to get every ounce of your energy now that we pinned those silver wings ... on your chest. It's an emerging part of our capability in our services ... a joint effort.
"One of the single messages I want to deliver today, is that we are in this together, and ... we are better together in the end."
Packett also said America is a nation of symbols, and the great symbol and legacy of what has been accomplished here at the Intelligence Center, with UAS and UAV, as part of the foundation for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance gives the kind of edge and capability that makes the military "absolutely remarkable." According to Packett, the war has ignited an explosion in the use of UAVs by the military, and growth in UAV use will continue.
"We are only going to come together and make this better," he said. "These great troopers, who are our national treasures ... are being recognized ... for their education ... and experience out in the battlefield.
"It's a great day ... because it's been a steep hill in order to be able to recognize, with this symbol of professionalism, these wings, the troopers that stand before you today. They are America's finest, they have the greatest capability and they are going to deliver that capability, and now they can sit a little bit taller in the saddle as they ride off into the sunset with that shiny piece of brass on their chests that they have so duly earned."
Packett also commented on the future of joint UAV operations here, saying, "Fort Huachuca is a crown jewel for what we've done in the UAV business. We are going to capitalize on what we have here."
Sgt. Marco Garavito, one of the Soldiers who was awarded the Army Aviation Basic Crewmember badge during the ceremony, expressed his gratitude, "I think it's good that we've been recognized. I've been doing this for a while. Aviation will give us some credit for what we do."
Command Sgt. Major Franklin Saunders, the top enlisted MI Soldier, was among those awarded the Army Aviation Master Crewmember Badge.
"It needed to happen," said Capt. Kyle Duncan, operations officer for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Battalion. "It's a credit to their skills, what they do."
According to Duncan, this aviation badge is different than the aviator badge; it is equal to the Crew Member Badge, an integral part of aviation.
It used to be called the Crew Member Wings, Duncan said, as he explained that there was a long process which led to the change in criteria for the badges. The petition began in 1992 to get a specific UAS badge, but it was turned down.
"Finally, they said 'Why don't we give them the aviation crew member badge' They are not actually in the aircraft, but they are doing aviation duties,'" Duncan said.
As aviation specialists, these Soldiers fulfill that requirement, Duncan said. Each Soldier, as a UAS operator or maintainer, has to maintain a readiness level, and flight proficiency.
"It's a credit to their skills, the hard work they do. Some of these Soldiers are instructor qualified, have spent countless hours in shelters flying every day in the field. They deserve this recognition. They are not pilots, but they are operating in theater, in aviation, and they're working with rotary aircraft, fixed wing aircraft, with Naval, Marine and Army Aviation. They are not getting an aviator's badge; they are getting an aviation badge. We recognize them for their work, as part of aviation."