By Kari Hawkins, USAG Redstone January 15, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby has made a name for himself as a general who leads the Army's aviation programs with the passion of a Soldier in war.
Known for his straightforward approach to leadership, for his confidence in the Soldiers and civilians who lead the Army's aviation programs, and for his love of anything that flies, Crosby is a general officer who has been given the unique, long-term opportunity to spearhead the Army's growing and expanding aviation portfolio as the program executive officer for aviation.
But now, with Army aviation well-established as a maximizing influencer and mission changer on the battlefield, Crosby will be stepping back from his own Army story when he retires on Jan. 24 in a 1 p.m. ceremony at Bob Jones Auditorium. The retirement ceremony, which will also include a change of charter ceremony that will name the then newly promoted Brig. Gen. Bob Marion as the new program executive officer for aviation, will be officiated by Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
"I love the Army and I love serving Army aviation. But at some point, you have to realize the need to get out of the way and let the younger guys come in with fresh ideas," Crosby said.
"During my flight testing days in the late '80s, I realized that the things we did everyday affected the Soldiers in the field and that sparked my passion, if you will, to try to make a difference for Soldiers, for Army aviators. It takes strong-willed people in acquisition to work through issues. It takes people with a passion for Soldiers to reduce the burden on the Soldier. And that's who I wanted to be."
Crosby will leave behind a legacy of providing the right kind of leadership during a time of both expansion and budget cutbacks in Army aviation.
"We have grown while I've been here," he said. "We have expanded to meet the Army's changing roles, to meet what the Army expected aviation to do. In the past 10 years, Army aviation has established a bond with commanders on the ground through being a critical enabler on the battlefield."
A Chinook pilot by training, Crosby's 34-year Army career started out very much on the ground when he commissioned as a field artillery officer after graduating from The Citadel in 1979. He was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division, where he served as the Fire Support Team chief, Battalion Fire Direction officer, Special Weapons officer and Battery executive officer.
"My father was an infantryman in the Army. He fought in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, and in North Africa and at D-Day (in France). He was a lieutenant colonel at the end of World War II. He had 27 years in the Army and was the commandant at Clemson University before he retired as a colonel," Crosby said.
"I grew up a military brat and I wanted to be like my dad. My father was never pushy, but he was my best friend. I lived by his example, so I became an artilleryman. I also have a brother who became an armored officer and another brother who was an artilleryman in the Reserves."
Although he enjoyed his artillery assignments, Crosby was the type of Soldier who was always looking for the next challenge. Several of his buddies took the test for flight school and Crosby decided to join them.
"Dad wanted to be a pilot in World War II, but he was already on the boat to Europe when he found out he was accepted into flight school. So, he deployed instead," Crosby said.
Crosby did make it to flight school at Fort Rucker, graduating with his aviator wings in May 1982. He was trained as a CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilot and was assigned to the 205th Aviation Company in Mainz Finthen, West Germany, where he served as a flight platoon leader, executive officer and operations officer. He then returned to Fort Rucker for the Aviation Officer Advanced Course, and was subsequently assigned to the Army Aviation Development Test Activity in 1986 to conduct developmental flight testing on CH-47, UH-60, and fixed-wing aircraft.
"I loved Chinooks, but I learned enough about the other aircraft to be dangerous," Crosby joked.
In 1990, Crosby returned to Europe to command the VIIth Corps CH-47 unit. He deployed his unit to Southwest Asia to participate in Operations Desert Shield/Storm. He commanded the unit for just under two years, followed by an assignment as a battalion executive officer.
And then Crosby's career came to a crossroads.
"It was a tough call for me," he said. "It's a lot more fun as a leader to be commanding troops. But I knew there was more opportunity to change the future of Army aviation as an acquisition officer. I wanted to work to get things done in spite of the process. As a dual and fixed wing master aviator, I wanted to make a difference for the Soldiers who were flying Army aircraft."
Following staff college, Crosby was assigned to the Comanche Project Office in 1993, where he held the positions of Logistics Management officer, and assistant program manager for Training and Simulation, for MANPRINT, and for Test and Evaluation.
In 1996, he went on to serve as a Weapons System program evaluator in the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After a two-year tour on the Joint Staff, he was assigned to serve as the first product manager for the Improved Cargo Helicopter Program, now known as the CH-47F, at Redstone Arsenal.
He then went on to attend the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, and earn a master's degree in international and strategic studies. It was while Crosby was at the war college that his career took a turn that brought him to where he is today.
"Everything really fell into place. I was selected for colonel. I was selected as the project manager for the Army's Cargo Helicopter Program. And I was slated to be assigned to Redstone. I stayed in that job for five years," Crosby said.
In 2006, Crosby was assigned to serve as the interim project manager for the newly formed Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office, serving in that position for two months until the command-slated Armed Scout Helicopter project manager arrived. He then served as the project manager for Reset, charged with integrating the effort to preset and reset the aircraft going to and returning from combat deployment. In 2007, Crosby became the deputy program executive officer for aviation and became the program executive officer for aviation in late 2008.
Today, Crosby oversees an $8 billion aviation budget, which is the largest procurement budget in the Army. He provides executive level management for eight aviation project offices and more than 2,250 military, government civilian and contractor employees. Its operations are located primarily at the PEO Aviation campus on Redstone as well as at the Sparkman Center.
PEO Aviation's project offices include Apache Attack Helicopter, Armed Scout Helicopter, Aviation Systems, Cargo Helicopter, Fixed Wing Aircraft, Non-Standard Rotary Wing Aircraft, Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Utility Helicopter. Two of those -- Fixed Wing Aircraft and Non-Standard Rotary Wing Aircraft -- were established under Crosby's leadership.
Even while leading the PEO during a time of tremendous demand for aviation assets, and aviation modifications and upgrades, Crosby still managed to address and introduce new technologies within the Army aviation fleet. One such technical innovation involved the first teaming of manned and unmanned aircraft in a real-time experiment at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah in 2011.
Crosby is also credited as the pioneer for Soldier Focused Logistics, which fully integrates elements from all the stakeholders and streamlines the acquisition process. Soldier Focused Logistics works because it allows the project manager to be the true life cycle manager, establishing a single point of oversight and responsibility, while presenting one face to the Soldier. Soldier Focused Logistics eventually evolved into what is now Life Cycle Management within the Army.
"The biggest change we've made in the PEO is shifting from a cost-schedule-performance mentality to a life cycle-focused mentality, and becoming a one-stop shop for the Soldier," Crosby said. "That's a change and evolution across the entire PEO. Now, Soldiers don't need to search out sustainment resources. We are a fleet management cell that Soldiers can use as their conduit to the answers and resources they need."
Although growth in support has been the driving force of the Program Executive Office for Aviation throughout Crosby's time at its helm, the last few years have been overshadowed by budget cuts that threaten the Army's aviation capabilities.
"It's not about taking a salami slice and cutting off a certain percentage from each project office," he said. "We have had to go back time and time again to look strictly at the implications and impacts of cuts. We need to ensure we have the best combat power, that we are keeping our highly trained and knowledgeable people, and that we have the best strategy for the future."
Crosby worries that budget constraints will erode the relationship between aviators and battlefield commanders, that they will force units to think of their own requirements rather than working together for the betterment of the whole Army.
"We've got to maintain the trust and bond we've built. Even in our own offices, we've placed all the responsibility on the project manager to be the cradle-to-grave life cycle manager. But we don't have cost control managers or quality managers in that process. We need to have a more collaborative environment between these people," the major general said.
"As money gets tighter, people throw up silos and defend their zones. We are challenged as leaders to knock down those silos, and continue to collaborate and work together. If we don't do this, we will become a hollow Army."
Crosby has been known for his hands-off leadership style, for giving his project managers and employees the freedoms they need to perform in their jobs at the highest level.
"I'm not a technical person. I'm not a detail person," he said. "What I do boils down to leadership and providing resources. I look to my project managers to bring together the technical expertise and focus on the common goal of supporting the Soldier on the battlefield," he said.
"I want the people of this PEO to be the experts in their fields. And I will recognize that expertise and reward it. I believe in decentralized execution, in allowing people to make mistakes and to learn. You learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. I've never seen a good idea come from the top."
Enabling, encouraging and challenging are the duties of a leader who wants his people to evolve and develop their skills and expertise, Crosby said. He has especially enjoyed the opportunity to work with others to make a difference in Army aviation.
"I hope I'm remembered as somebody people could trust and rely on, that they always knew I had their back. To me, I owe them that," he said. "I like to think I continued what was started here at the PEO in terms of life cycle management and the strategic view of Army aviation."
Always an aviator first, Crosby is the only active duty aviator in the Army to have flown all the Army Chinook models from the A to the F model. But with retirement looming, Crosby is focused on bringing his legacy to a close at the Program Executive Office for Aviation as he becomes more family focused, with plans to spend more time with his wife Janice and three grown children, Sara, Rebecca and Will. He also hopes to have more time to enjoy hunting, fishing, golfing and carpentry, and to spend more time in his hometown of Charleston, S.C.
"I'm an old Southern boy," he said, smiling. "If I'm not around family, it's not right. There's no place I'd rather be than with family."
Crosby said he owes the successes in his career to his wife, who has always supported him and defended the home front with his children.
"My wife sometimes thinks she hasn't done that much to support the Army. But my family has never hiccupped at the sacrifices they've had to make. What my wife doesn't realize is, she is all of it. She has allowed me to fulfill my passion. She has served the Army and our country just as much as I have," he said.
Although he is retiring after a long Army aviation career, Crosby plans to continue to work in support of the Army and its aviators.
"I have some years left to me and I want to continue my passion," he said. "My passion will always be with Army aviation. I'll be serving, but just in a different capacity. I don't think you can get Army aviation out of your blood. I want to be challenged and I want to contribute and, although we love Huntsville, I am willing to move to continue to serve in a challenging leadership position."