HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Leaders gather to ensure future generations of Army aviation Soldiers and equipment are prepared for any and all impending missions.

U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command leaders joined forces with industry representatives to ensure future generations of Army aviation Soldiers and equipment are prepared for any and all impending missions at the 46th annual Joseph P. Cribbins Aviation Product Sustainment Symposium held at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Nov. 13-14.
AMCOM Commander, Maj. Gen. Doug Gabram gave the keynote address to more than 200 participants.

During his remarks, Gabram spoke about the balance between current and future needs, strategic depth, as well as for Army aviation assets to be ready for any and all contingencies.

"The theme for Cribbins, 'Preparing Army Aviation to Fight Tonight and Tomorrow,' is very relevant," Gabram said. "I am not worried about status quo or where we are at now, because we have great people, great leaders and great maintainers. But to get better, to get to depth, we have to get there as a team. If we have to surge, could we do that? What is your status of material and people? What is your capacity? These are all questions I would ask for your help as we move forward.

"Are we ready to fight tonight?" he asked. "If the aircraft are not ready and they are not maintained properly, and if we are only good for a week and can't sustain ourselves in a fight, then we are in trouble. That is why we are going after depth and the supply chain.

"The only reason Army aviation exists is to support the Soldiers on the ground, that's it. Failure is not an option," Gabram said. "We're asking our Soldiers to strap on an Army aircraft, push the power levers to fly, go into very dark places at night where nobody else wants to be and make it happen. We have to make sure they have what they need to succeed."

The symposium provides an annual forum for aviation operators, logisticians, project managers, research and development and key decision makers to gather information and better support the Warfighter.

"This symposium is unique," said Gary Ninninger, Army Aviation Association of America Tennessee Valley Chapter president. "It is dedicated to aviation products and aviation sustainment products and priceless information is passed on between industry and government members. We do this every year and we will continue it every year.

"Army aviation is critical," he added. "When the Soldiers on the ground see the helicopters, they know that help is on the way."

AMCOM leadership also participated in several of the panel discussions. AMCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Mike Dove spoke about enhancing maintainer comprehension and performance and how to improve training that will ultimately improve performance.

"Some of the things the enterprise is looking at are virtual training tools," Dove said. "With these tools, our Soldiers can get multiple iterations on something they wouldn't normally do on a normal basis."

AMCOM Branch Aviation Maintenance Officer, Chief Warrant 5 Mike Cavaco, participated in the Expeditionary Operations in Support of Large Scale Combat Operations panel.

"The threat dictates that we are going to have fight on the move," Cavaco said. "We need to maximize our ability to get back to crew and organizational maintenance as the first line of defense in sustaining our aircraft." As AMCOM's Aviation Chief Warrant Officer, Cavaco is the technical expert on Aviation issues and serves as AMCOM's primary contact with brigade-level maintenance officers across the Army.

"Our Soldiers are rock stars," he added. "We have to give our Soldiers every opportunity to get good at their jobs. The time to train Soldiers is not when they are deployed. The time to train is now."

During the symposium, the Program Executive Officer, Aviation, Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Todd III, gave an update on his agency's current initiatives. The symposium also provided a forum to discuss the future of Army Aviation. The director of the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team, Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, talked about his team's focus on enhancing vertical-lift dominance through the development of next-generation capabilities.

"We are focused on keeping our momentum up, focused on the investment and focused on the opportunity we have," Rugen said. "We don't have a monopoly on innovation in the uniformed services. So how do we look at our whole capability development process and enable it to accept the innovation that industry can provide? We have to advance the ball when it comes to Army aviation and we are going to need industry help."

The Future Vertical Lift CFT, one of eight cross-functional teams under the Army Futures Command, is designed to increase reach, protection, lethality, agility and mission flexibility to dominate in airspace against known and emerging threats.

"We took a hard look at our strengths and weaknesses and really saw ourselves and where we are, where we've been and where we need to be in future warfare," Rugen said. "Leaders across the Army looked at this and they didn't see them as stumbling blocks, but saw them as starting blocks. We are bringing advanced capability to the multi-domain fight."

The two-day annual symposium is one of several professional development and networking forums in which AMCOM leadership participates. In October, AMCOM hosted more than 280 members of the Army aviation community during the annual AMCOM Aviation 101. The 101 is a forum of presentations and discussions for Aviation Soldiers and civilians that focuses on aviation readiness and sustainment across the aviation enterprise.