Event connects industry representatives, Army Aviators
March 29, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Mar. 29, 2012) -- Fort Rucker's Aviation Training Industry Day proved to be a "huge success," according to an organizer.
The event, held March 22 at The Landing, was designed as a way to bring Aviation industry representatives to post to interact with the Soldiers and trainers who use the products they provide, according to Lt. Col Michael Hansen, chief of the Operations Division at Fort Rucker's Directorate of Simulation.
The day-long event included addresses from Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general; Ellis Golson from the Capabilities Development Integration Directorate; and Col. Jessie Farrington, USAACE deputy commander, as well as a Fort Rucker leadership panel question and answer session.
Hansen said 41 companies had displays at The Landing, but representatives from about 50 companies attended the event.
Robert Abascal, the president of AVT Simulation, called the event a "one-stop shop" because so many people, both industry representatives and Soldiers, had easy access to the event.
At larger Aviation conferences, his training-focused company can get lost in the crowd, he explained, but at Fort Rucker's industry day, he was able to learn about where his customers -- Army Aviators -- are coming from.
"We're not selling. We're doing a lot of listening," Abascal said.
Crutchfield emphasized the need for that kind of dialogue in his welcoming address.
"We're not buying anything today," he said. "We're going to talk about the things that are needed for the future. Perhaps some of the formal discussions in here and down on the floor will lead to ideas and solutions for tomorrow's technologies and training."
In the same address, Crutchfield gave the industry partners two key points to consider as the day continued. First he challenged them to better understand the transition from an Army at war to an Army that prepares to go to war. Second, he said, the nature of wars the Army has faced for the past 10 years isn't necessarily the blueprint for the future.
"I know we've got a lot to do," Crutchfield said. "Today is only a start. I don't see us coming up with solutions to everything. But you've brought some of your things here that we can at least start the dialogue, and at least see if those things right now are compatible with the Army Learning Concept and what we in the branch need."
According to Hansen, the plans for industry day started late last year when a small group from Fort Rucker was preparing to go to a major training and simulation conference in Orlando. Because so few people are able to attend the Orlando conference and similar events, Col. Stephen Seitz, the director of the Directorate of Simulation, wanted to find a way to bring some of the Army industry partners to Fort Rucker.
The result was Aviation Training Industry Day where vendors were offered reasonably priced spaces and access to a majority of aviation trainers, Hansen said, adding that all Fort Rucker personnel were welcome at the event.
Plans for more vendor space and increased attendance are already being discussed for next year, he said, but the intent is to keep the event on Fort Rucker.
Dennis Hoffman, business development manager at Boeing Training Systems, said he doesn't think a magazine article or other publicity effort would accomplish as much as the conference did.
"Hearing (the Army's) vision about the new go-to-war approach is enlightening," he said.
Throughout the day, budget cuts and the nearing drawdown were recurring themes. Golson asked the industry partners to consider how the Army would maintain its edge with fewer resources.
"We are going to have to maintain our edge with capability with how we execute our training, how well we train, how well we practice and employ what we have," he said. Because of this, solutions to training challenges must be flexible and adaptable.
"If we develop a tool or training that is not adaptable and not flexible to change, because we know how quickly technology does change -- especially in Army Aviation -- then we're probably developing the wrong thing," Farrington explained in his address.
In his closing remarks, Crutchfield said that invention should be the product of where you want to go and because of that the partnership with industry representatives should not end when the conference ends.
"We're going to have to think about this and we're going to have to think about it together," he said. "We have to think about it now. We have to invest in it and we have to drive to it and I know together we can do that."