NASHVILLE (Army News Service, May 7, 2014) -- Despite a shrinking budget and drawdown, Army aviation needs to retain its most valuable resource -- its bold and innovative Soldiers, said the Army's vice chief of staff.
Those aviators are preparing the Army for its next fight, said Gen. John F. Campbell during his keynote address Monday, to the Army Aviation Association of America, known as Quad A, opening its two-day 2014 Mission Solutions Summit at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel here.
"While we may get smaller, we cannot sacrifice readiness and innovation," Campbell continued, citing innovations that occurred after past wars during drawdowns.
Two of Army aviation's important developments, the Black Hawk and Apache helicopters, occurred in the years following Vietnam.
Campbell said the Army needs to retain its leaders and innovators like retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Stephen L. Davidson, who developed night vision goggles. Davidson also developed new tactics and techniques for more effective armed scout helicopter operations from sea-based platforms in the Persian Gulf during the "tanker wars."
Quad A will be inducting Davidson into its Hall of Fame during this year's Quad A Summit.
The Army can't rest on its laurels and must continue to adapt and innovate to stay three steps ahead of potential adversaries, Campbell continued.
"We must change in order to maintain the tactical overmatch necessary to remain the greatest Army and the greatest aviation force in the world.," he said.
Leaders need to step up and lead the way as the Army transitions its armed reconnaissance mission from the Kiowa Warrior to the Apache Attack helicopters, teamed with unmanned aircraft, he said.
"It's never been about the systems, it's about the people," Campbell continued. "We need our best pilots to stick with the Army through this transition, even if it means having to change aircraft."
Industry partners, many of whom are former Army aviators, also need to stay in the fight, Campbell said.
The press commonly criticizes the military acquisition and military-industrial complex as "slow and unresponsive. But when we work together and put our minds to it, we can accomplish anything," Campbell said.
For example, he cited the rapid introduction of the common missile warning system, in 2005. This system went from nonexistent to fielding in 18 months, and "it's been credited with saving countless lives," he said.
The cooperation between Army and industry has also resulted in the unmanned aerial vehicle fleet, increasing from just 45 in 2001, to more than 7,500 today, he said, adding that 90 percent of unmanned aerial vehicle missions flown were in direct support of combat missions.
"Unlike the other service, we do not see manned and unmanned aircraft in competition, but rather in cooperation for a common goal from the corps down to the squad level," Campbell said.
Success of the unmanned aerial vehicle program also should go to Army civilians who have been at the forefront of innovation, he said, people like Richard W. Kretzschmar, deputy project manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office, U.S. Army Program Executive Office, Aviation, Redstone Arsenal, Ala.
Kretzschmar managed the development, production, testing, fielding and sustaining of the Army's entire unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, fleet as well as its Ground-Based Sense-and-Avoid system, and other programs.
He also led development of a number of recent innovations, "all of this during a year when there was a freeze in civilian pay and furloughs," Campbell added.
Campbell awarded him the Joseph P. Cribbins Department of the Army Civilian of the Year Award following the keynote address.
Two weeks ago, Campbell said he visited Afghanistan, where he saw "the incredible work Army aviation is doing, flying in the harshest conditions imaginable to man."
Too often, Soldiers take Army aviation for granted, he said, citing 207 Distinguished Flying Crosses awarded to Army aviators since Sept. 11, 2001, for actions in Afghanistan, and 118 for actions in Iraq.
"Every single day and night," Army aviators are displaying acts of courage and valor in support of troops on the ground and "we take this uncommon valor for granted -- and we shouldn't do so," Campbell said.
The recent operation best known to Americans was the Navy SEAL team raid to kill Osama bin-Laden, Campbell said.
It was also "the quiet professionals" of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the "Night Stalkers," who were on that raid, and who are "an integral part to nearly every black [Special Operations Forces] operation that takes place. They take on the toughest missions and do it with little fanfare or public glory."
Campbell presented the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment with the Quad A Outstanding Aviation Unit of the Year award, following his keynote address. He also recognized a number of other Army aviators, both officer and enlisted, for their innovativeness and courage.
(For more ARNEWS stories, visit http://www.army.mil/ARNEWS, or Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArmyNewsService)