Keeping the ground talking to the sky: Brigade aviation officers discuss lessons learned
November 19, 2007
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Brigade aviation officers from Multi-National Division-Baghdad gathered Nov. 10 at Camp Taji, Iraq, to discuss lessons learned and the future of brigade aviation officers at a symposium hosted by the 1st Air Cavalry "Warrior" Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.
The brigade aviation officer or "BAO" is an aviator assigned to a ground unit to help enable air-to-ground integration, said Capt. Steven Danelson, the air mission request officer in charge for 1st ACB.
"The BAO is in charge of integrating air assets into the ground fight; whether that be attack aviation support, lift assets, air assaults or (personnel) movement," said Danelson who hails from Medford, Ore.
They also coordinate with indirect fires and unmanned aerial vehicle missions - virtually anything to do with the airspace over the Soldiers' heads, he said.
This first ever BAO symposium was held so that the aviation representatives could share their knowledge with one another and also see how far they've come in air-to-ground integration since they deployed, said Danelson.
"I think it was important to highlight the impact that aviation brought to the ground fight; that's another reason why we had the symposium," he said.
Kuna, Idaho, native Lt. Col. Cory Smith, the operations aviation and airspace management officer for the 1st Cav. Div., also thought the meeting was important.
"The symposium, hosted by the 1st ACB, was an extremely important venue for the brigade aviation officers to collectively gather and discuss key aviation issues that we currently deal with on a daily basis here in Baghdad such as airspace management, air/ground integration and aviation operations," he said.
The BAOs also discussed the importance of their jobs and how to improve upon their utilization within the ground units, said Cedaredge, Colo., native Maj. James Corrigan, the BAO for 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav. Div.
Traverse City, Mich., native, Col. Dan Shanahan, commander of the Warriors said that one of their goals coming into this deployment was to improve the air-to-ground integrations aspect of the fight.
Shanahan said they weren't perfect, but they did succeed in improving the overall capabilities of the BAOs and the air-to-ground integration piece.
Smith felt there was significant improvement as well.
"The air/ground integration has progressed considerably over the last year. In my opinion, the reason for this accelerated progress is due to the continuous, close coordination spearheaded by the aviation battalions and the BAOs," said Smith.
Because the BAO position is relatively new, there was a steep learning curve for those aviators slotted into it, said Corrigan.
Originally, aviation brigades would provide one of their aviators to supplement this position in ground units, but now the position is filled from the top by division, said Danelson.
The end results of the symposium were some key points that they learned during their tenure in Iraq. Ideally, this knowledge will be passed on to incoming BAOs in other units, thus alleviating the learning curve, he said.
"This information should be able to be used as a training tool for when we get back to garrison," said Danelson. "Hopefully some improvements can be made based upon our success and suggestions of improvement in the near future."
Along with improving their capabilities, the symposium contributed to the ground Soldiers as well, Danelson said.
"We had some good take away packets so that when (the BAOs) do go back (to their units), they'll have that product to give to that guy on the ground to know what to expect," he said.
Although most of the BAOs might rather be flying, they know their job is an integral part of the fight in Iraq. The position also gives them insight that other aviators may never get, said Corrigan.
"In general, as a BAO, we get a broader exposure to the entire fight; not just the aviation piece," he said.
As a BAO, their piece is an integral part of supporting those fighting on the ground, said Smith.
"The BAO is instrumental in ensuring all aviation operations within that respective ground BCT's operational environment are synchronized, coordinated and integrated into the ground commander's scheme of maneuver," said Smith.