FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Army News Service, May 5, 2008) Army aviation officials unveiled a new Unmanned Aircraft System Center of Excellence during the 25th anniversary of the Army Aviation Branch Friday.

In addition to unveiling the new UAS Center for Excellence, the anniversary celebration included a golf scramble, a ball attended by nearly 700 people at Aviators' Landing, senior-leader discussion panels and a "Salute to the Branch" ceremony.

The Salute to the Branch included a flyover by aircraft including the OH-58C Kiowa and the UH-1 Huey. The celebration concluded Saturday at Lake Tholocco with the "Thunder on Tholocco" drag boat races.

The UAS Center of Excellence, located at the Air Maneuver Battle Lab, was created as a result of an Army decision in June 2005 to consolidate all issues dealing with unmanned aerial vehicles.

"This is really a first step," said Maj. Gen. Virgil L. Packett II, U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center and Fort Rucker commanding general. He added that bringing the UAS Center of Excellence to Fort Rucker is tied to the Army's joint integration among other branches and how leaders look toward the future.

"The Center of Excellence will be the central contact point regarding Army UAS capability development initiatives, said Ellis Golson, Capability Development Integration Directorate deputy director.

The TRADOC Capabilities Manager for UAS, Col. Jeffrey Kappenman, ensures Army leadership understands system users' needs and, in conjunction with other proponents, develops capabilities.

The UAS Program Office at Redstone Arsenal develops potential materiel solutions to fill the user's needs and then defends that requirement to Army leadership to establish priorities, funding profiles or long-term support for the capability and the units that use unmanned technology, Kappenman said.

Because there are several Army branches that use unmanned technology, the Center of Excellence will become a central reference point, Golson said.

"When the program started, it was originally with the military intelligence center at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., but as UAS capabilities grew, the Department of the Army made a decision to move it to Fort Rucker," he said.

The Center of Excellence will coordinate studies, simulations and interactions with the UAS Board of Directors, which will include Army training organizations and proponents that have a stake in unmanned operations, Kappenman said.

Because Aviation's unmanned systems are still new and growing, Kappenman said he foresees working closely with the Center of Excellence to continue developing and delivering necessary technology.

The 25th anniversary celebration was attended by several special guests during various events including Army aviator and astronaut, retired Col. Patrick Forrester, Congressman Terry Everett, and Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody, who served as the keynote speaker at the April 24 Army Aviation Anniversary Ball.

During his remarks, Cody said several things have been constant during the past 25 years of Army Aviation - good Soldiers, good Families, good neighbors and a drive to "slip the bonds" of earth and, in doing so, make the world a safer place.

Army Aviation has grown incredibly in the past 25 years, spurred by a commitment to excellence, he said.

Cody, who will retire this summer, said he is certain the foundations set by the Branch's Soldiers for the past 25 years will be built upon by innovative and passionate Army Aviation Soldiers for many years to come.

"I have great faith this Branch will continue on and, 25 years from now, there will be other people (celebrating the 50th anniversary) and they will be talking about the last 25 years and I anticipate those years will be better than first 25 years," he said.

"That has to be our legacy--we must get better every day."

(Mollie Miller also contributed to this article.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16