By Sofia BledsoeJuly 1, 2013
Lt. Col. Heyward Wright beams with pride as he talks about his office's accomplishments over the last three years.
Wright was the product manager of the UH-60 A/L/M Black Hawk product office, a responsibility he carried since 2010. As the PM, he was charged with managing the cradle-to-grave, life cycle management of all models of the UH-60 Black Hawks, including new equipment training of Soldiers with their new aircraft.
On June 26, the UH-60 A/L/M Product Office was officially deactivated in a ceremony, and a new product directorate for UH-60L Digital was formed.
"What we're really celebrating today, even though it's a deactivation, is the accomplishments of the A/L/M team," Col. Thomas Todd, project manager for Utility Helicopters, said. "What the A/L/M team has done is put the best possible assault helicopter downrange for our Soldiers every day, no matter whether it was an A, L, or an M model. At the end of the day, our sons and daughters that we ask to do the calling of our nation have the best possible product in their hands."
About a year ago, the Utility Helicopters Project Office received an Army requirement to upgrade the analog UH-60L models to the same capability in terms of a digitized capability that the M model brings to the battlefield.
In a cost-constrained environment, the Army's most affordable option, instead of purchasing all M models, is to upgrade the L models with digital capability. The basic approach would be to take existing L model airframes and upgrading them. The goal: make the L model as similar to the M model as possible, so that when an aviator operates it, he or she sees the same cockpit in terms of graphics and digitized capability as an M model. The new UH-60L Digital Product Directorate will also focus on eliminating duplication and redundancies.
Wright took on that responsibility in his last year of command and transitioned the A/L/M product office to an L Digital footing. To ensure the success of a new Army program, Wright stood up a new team to ensure that the right skill sets in engineering, logistics, and other necessary skills, were in place.
Under Wright's leadership, the product office successfully completed an Army System Acquisition Review Council and Materiel Development Decision.
"There is no officer that I have that knows 'duty' more than Heyward," said Todd, citing one of the Army Values. "Our partners -- other government agencies, including our other military service brothers and sisters, the FBI, State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, and many others -- are the benefactors of the A/L/M office. Don't think that your legacy is just a legacy. It lives on under the L Digital office."
Todd credited Wright's family, especially his mother and father in the audience, for Wright's passion to serve.
"A lot of what he has accomplished is certainly a tribute to how you raised him," Todd said.
"It's been a fast three years," Wright said. "I'm really going to cherish what my team has accomplished. They've made a direct positive impact to our Soldiers going to war, and they've influenced how Soldiers need to be equipped."
Under Wright's leadership, the UH-60 A/L/M Product Office fielded more than 300 new UH/HH-60M aircraft to six Combat Aviation Brigades and many separate battalions. The NET team trained more than 1,886 pilots, maintenance test pilots, and maintainers with zero accidents or incidents. Wright fielded the first UH-60 A to A to L and transitioned the recap line to "L." This process yielded more than 161 recapitalized H-60s.
The A/L/M team also revitalized OGA programs, fielding 37 aircraft to the Air Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Patrol, and supporting the International Programs product director. Several of these programs had presidential involvement.
"This is an aviation enterprise success story, not just a PM success story," Wright said. He acknowledged the teamwork and cooperation with other organizations that was necessary to achieve the successes in his program. Wright thanked the project management teams in the Program Executive Office for Aviation, Aviation and Missile Command particularly the AMCOM Logistics Center, Corpus Christi Army Depot, Army Aviation Center of Excellence, and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. During the ceremony, Wright also thanked his mentors who have influenced him to make the right choices and most of all his family for believing in him.
"We have revalidated the requirements documentation for the fleet as of December of this year," Wright said. "The Analysis of Alternatives has also been revalidated. That saved our Soldiers and our American taxpayers about two years of the program.
"The UH-60 fleet is the largest in the world. I've had the pleasure of leading this team. It has been one of the most rewarding and blessed times in my career. The icing on the cake was completing MDD."
During the ceremony, a brief recap of the history of the UH-60 A/L/M office was recounted.
Eric Edwards, now the director of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, assumed the charter and stood up the UH-60 A&L Product Office in October 2004. During the next 12 months, the team increased the mission capability of Army aviation units by producing 29 recapitalized UH-60A helicopters, issuing new and improved special tools and test equipment and executing the Army's move to 48 brigades. The team fielded 71 production UH/HH-60L aircraft and cascaded 53 aircraft.
In 2006, the team fielded the first Low Rate Initial Production UH-60M. Additionally, Edwards' team reduced the average recap turnaround time by 85 days. They helped six Combat Aviation Brigades and five separate aviation battalions deploy in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. These efforts transformed seven CABs and relocated more than 300 aircraft in support of the Army Aviation Transformation Plan.
Then Lt. Col. Bert Vergez assumed the UH-60 A&L product office charter in May 2007. During his watch, the product office refined the UH-60M production process and fielded the first unit equipped, 4-101 Aviation. The product office NET team trained this unit, participated in their OEF deployment, their employment in theater, and redeployment to Fort Campbell. The team fielded 27 UH-60Ms to the National Guard and produced the Army's first HH-60M while concurrently expanding the H-60 recap program.
Wright was recognized with several awards including the Meritorious Service Award and the Army Aviation Association of America Order of St. Michael, Bronze Award.
He will become the product manager for the Non-Standard Rotary Wing Aircraft Office-Forward, and will be deployed for at least six months in Afghanistan.