By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 3, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 3, 2013) -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno visited Fort Rucker April 1-2 to get a firsthand look at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and talk about sequestration effects on the community.
Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, hosted the visit that consisted of tours of different training facilities, briefings, a flight tour of the installation, meetings with students from the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College and flight school, and a town hall meeting that was open to Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians, contractors and Family members.
"Aviation continues to change and adjust. How do we best utilize Army Aviators? This is the place where we have to put that to the test," he said.
The Chief also toured the Aviation Center Logistics Command at Cairns Army Airfield where he was shown how Fort Rucker maintains its aircraft and how business is conducted.
Odierno said that Aviation plays a major part in the Army's future because of its unique mission.
"One of our great advantages is our ability to conduct air-ground operations and having the best rotor wing capability in the world," he said. "Nobody has been able to move around the world, move forces or have significant mobility like we do. You play a key role in sustaining these asymmetrical advantages that we already have. In my mind, that is what makes Fort Rucker so important."
During a press conference, Odierno said, that he visited Fort Rucker to discuss budget difficulties and how the base is going to move forward.
He spoke about the Soldiers for Life program, the Pacific threat, how the Army will move into the future without damaging its readiness and sequestration.
"I am proud of the people [who work at Fort Rucker] that continue to improve the capacity we have here, and they do it in such a way where they understand the importance of doing it with [fewer] dollars and still get a lot of capability out of it-- that is impressive," he said.
He added that the Army has to sustain its ability to train Aviators in order to create an Army that is regionally engaged and globally responsive.
"If we don't sustain Fort Rucker, we will lose our readiness for our Aviation capabilities. If we have to reduce it, we will try to mitigate that as much as we can," he said.
Maintaining economic strength means reducing debt and investing in things that are important to the country and Odierno said that as the Army is asked to reduce its budget, it is his duty and that of others like him, to ensure it is done the right way.
"We have to make reductions in a way that does not hinder our capacity or capability to deliver Army capabilities where they are needed. We are given the responsibility to save lives, but when necessary to take lives. So we have to work through short-term budget problems and we have to develop the Army of the future while still engaged in combat," he said.
Though the Aviation Branch must adjust and change as it looks to the future, how the Army trains its Aviators and how it responds to some of the most difficult conditions will "never change," according to the general.
"Our Aviation school will be here for a very long time. This is something that is important to us. It is in a great place to train and allows us a lot of flexibility in our ability to train because of the number of airfields, [as well as] the population and what the population provides us in terms of skills," he said. "One thing I can assure you is that in one year … two years … three years from now we will have the best Army in the World."
At the town hall meeting, the floor was opened up for questions, and everything from the Defense of Marriage Act to the budget beyond 2014, from the new physical test uniforms to slots for special schools was discussed.
Odierno finished his visit with an Association of the United States Army breakfast, where he again took questions and spoke about budget cuts.
"My goal has and will always be that those forward deployed and those getting ready to deploy have what is necessary to ensure that they will be able to do their jobs-- that they will have the right training, the best equipment and leaders that will allow them to move forward," he said. "But, no matter what, we will lead you through this uncertainty."