Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for January 12, 2009 - Maj. Al Niles, Jr.

Major Al Niles, Jr.

Current Unit: Project Management Office for Air Warrior
Current Position: Assistant Product Manager
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Huntsville, Ala.
Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.
Years of Service: 12

Maj. Al Niles, Jr. is a Soldier who balances a deep appreciation for history with a passion for finding new solutions that will take the Army into the future. As a graduate of Tuskegee University and an Army aviator, he is inspired by the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen whose accomplishments were in large part the catalyst for the integration of the Armed Forces. As an Assistant Product Manager for Air Warrior, he works every day to guide the development of innovative technologies that allow his fellow Soldiers to accomplish their missions more safely and effectively. Honoring what came before and constantly seeking what can be done to make tomorrow better are the passions at the core of Maj. Niles' Army career.

Since his commissioning as a Branch Aviation Officer in 1997, Maj. Niles has logged countless hours in flight for the Army, deploying in support of operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2005, he served as company commander of Charlie Company, 159th Aviation Regiment in Iraq and earned the Bronze Star Medal for his leadership, loyalty and tactical excellence.

By the numbers alone, Maj. Niles and his units' accomplishments during this tour of duty astound: they processed over 1700 work orders for Army aircraft and equipment, safely moved 129 Soldiers and 71 pieces of equipment more than 80 kilometers from Kuwait to Camp Buehring and recovered two downed aircraft through harsh terrain and hostile conditions. Maj Niles alone flew 150 hours during this deployment and completed more than 300 maintenance test flights.

Now as an Assistant Product Manager for Air Warrior, a component of the Army's PEO Soldier program, Maj. Niles applies the expertise gained through these experiences to obtain the best new equipment for Army aviators currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He works through every stage of the development, procurement and delivery processes to ensure that his fellow Soldiers have the very best gear to accomplish their missions.

Most recently, Maj. Niles traveled to Afghanistan to deliver a new technology to pilots there: a specially designed heads-up display, or HUD. This device fits like a visor across Soldiers' eyes and displays key aircraft status updates and navigational information right above and below the Soldiers' line of vision. This innovative technology enables pilots to keep their eyes up and out, rather than having to check the dashboard, an option that makes all the difference when flying through harsh conditions like snow or dust storms.

With every new piece of equipment he helps bring to fruition, Maj. Niles looks forward to the moment when he hands over the gear to the Soldiers who will use it. "The look on a young Soldier's face when he receives and tries out a new tool is what motivates me to continue my work," he said.

Maj. Niles lives in Huntsville, Ala. with his wife and daughter.

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