By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 30, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Aviation museum is widely known for its vast collection of aircraft that tells the story of Army Aviation, but many might miss the more subtle pieces of art that have stories of their own.
One of those stories belongs to CW4 James Hagerty, an Aviation accident investigator with the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Safety Center and UH-60 Black Hawk pilot, who recently donated a piece of his work that was added to the museum's permanent collection.
The painting that Hagerty donated, called "Infill," tells the story of his time while stationed in Afghanistan in 2013 with the 3rd Infantry Division and depicts a Black Hawk hovering over a group of Soldiers as they set out to complete their mission. During his time there, his unit's mission was to fly Soldiers on time-sensitive missions to perform infiltrations, so this painting tells one of those stories.
"This painting is one when we were downrange and worked with the Australians, and it was just inspired by missions we did with those guys," he said. "My inspiration is drawn from Army Aviation … and these paintings capture little snippets of Aviation history.
"It allows people to see some of the environments that we've operated in and some of the styles of missions that we've done," he continued. "With every painting there is a story behind it, and this preserves that story."
Those stories are the reason people frequent museum, according to Robert Mitchell, U.S. Army Aviation Museum curator, who was more than happy to add Hagerty's work to the museum's collection and, in turn, to add to Army Aviation's storied past.
"The Army Aviation Museum is the repository for the Army's material culture," said the curator. "People come to see the machines and the rich history of Aviation Soldiers, and it is important to remember that history is being made around the world every day by Soldiers like [Hagerty] and others.
"Some of these talented artists within the ranks share their work with the Museum and give the visitor insights into real-world operations," he continued. "It is both an honor and a privilege to showcase their work."
"Infill" is only one of many works Hagerty has completed, but it was also one of the first paintings he'd ever done, having only started painting during his time in Afghanistan in 2013.
His interest in painting began when he drew his battalion's logo on a concrete barrier while downrange and he decided that the logo could use a bit of color, but he had no experience with painting. During his time in theater, he connected with a Soldier and noticed her affinity for the arts.
"I would always see her doodling and I asked her if she ever painted, and she said yes, so I asked her what kind of paint I should use since I've never painted before, and she told me acrylic," he said. "I ordered some acrylic paint and painted this emblem on the [barrier] wall and it turned out well, so I started ordering some canvases and this painting is one of the pieces I ended up with while I was out there."
Hagerty said he eventually got the idea to donate a piece of his work to the museum when a Soldier he worked with in the 3rd Inf. Div., who was previously stationed at Fort Rucker and volunteered at the Aviation museum, suggested that he donate his work.
"I never thought much about it, but when I got stationed here I approached [Mitchell] about it and he said he'd love to have some art from someone who was still active duty and [had work] that was actually painted in theater," the Aviator said.
Hagerty presented his piece and began the process to get his work accepted into the U.S. Army art collection, and now the painting is on display for all to enjoy.
Although he only began painting about four years ago, his story is one that proves that it's never too late to start something new, he said.
"It's easy to have a lot of regrets in life," Hagerty said. "[Painting] is something that I enjoy doing and it's something I didn't know I had a talent for until I did it. So, I'd say if you have an ambition or something you've always wanted to do, whether its wood working, painting or climbing a mountain, I'd recommend at least trying it and seeing if it's something you're passionate about."