More than 150 current and legacy leaders across Army Aviation descended upon Fort Rucker to hear from senior leaders and tackle issues that affect the readiness of the Aviation Branch Jan. 29-31.

Each year the Aviation Senior Leader Forum brings together Army Aviation brigade commanders, command chief warrant officers and command sergeants major across the Army's active duty, National Guard and Reserve components.

This year's theme was "Army Aviation: Ready Today, More Lethal and Ready Tomorrow."

Event host Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, welcomed participants and provided an Aviation branch update.

"This is a great venue for everybody across the branch in all components to get reconnected to what's going on not only in the Army but with the branch," Gayler said. "If there is a question you have and you leave here this week without getting full knowledge of the answer to that question, that's on you. We've got everybody right here that can solve the problem. Take advantage of it."

Gayler said he would not be speaking about "things," or materiel, but rather about "everything you can do to improve readiness.… There's a lot going on in a lot of areas that will improve the readiness of our branch."

This includes the areas of leadership and innovation.

"You have to lead, and that requires confidence; and you have to change. You have to look for areas that you can improve and do better. And because no one likes to change, you have to lead change. That is what Training and Doctrine Command does," Gayler said.

Changes to Aviation doctrine include a draft of 3-04.1, Aviation Tactical Employment, the tactics, techniques and procedures for operations, which in the past centered on counterinsurgency and contained "no collective flavor," Gayler explained.

"We are revamping the entire manual to make sure it talks about fighting at the collective level in support of a maneuver force as a maneuver arm," Gayler said.

The Center is also rebooting the gunnery manual, and Gayler called for feedback so improvements can continue to be made in the future.

With the Aviation Warfighting Initiative, the Branch looks to reorient to the tactical.

"When you start looking at how we change culture in the branch to get away from being incredibly technically oriented and get back to tactically oriented warfighters, you have to change the Aircrew Training Manual," Gayler said.

This initiative is the "right step" toward achieving the priorities of reforming the institution, changing the Aviation branch mentality, and a focus on training combat air crews rather than training pilots, according to Gayler.

Changes to flight school include reinforcing skills like map reading and dead reckoning so aviators do not rely on glass cockpit technology solely in a potentially GPS-denied environment of future operations.

Plans are also underway at Fort Rucker to run a pilot test of virtual reality simulators with an artificial intelligence instructor pilot and cognitive measuring capability. The Aviation Training Next pilot, which was patterned off a US Air Force pilot training program, looks to use commercial off the shelf virtual reality technology to improve training and gain efficiencies. The plan is for test groups to be compared to a control group during the first few weeks of flight school in the spring.

According to Gayler, protection and lethality also continue to be enduring priorities for the branch.

Gayler's remarks on the first day nested with an overarching focus on current and future operations.
Sessions highlighted the Army's future fight, mission command and maneuver lethality in Multi-Domain Operations, including the roles of Fires and Cyber, as well an update from the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team on the Army's number three modernization priority.

Day two continued the focus on current and future operations, balancing commitments and readiness, multi-component training, Combat Training Center lessons learned and observations from the Directorate of Evaluation and Standardization/Aviation Resource Management Survey, as well as updates from Program Executive Office - Aviation and US Army Aviation and Missile Command.

Day three rounded out the forum with an emphasis on leader development, including risk management and institutional training and doctrine updates from the Directorate of Training and Doctrine here.

Guest speakers for the event represented the Army Aviation enterprise, as well as multiple commands and centers, including Headquarters, Department of the Army, Training and Doctrine Command, Forces Command, Army Futures Command, Army Materiel Command, the Combined Arms Center, Maneuver, Cyber, and Fires Centers of Excellence, First Army Division West, and Aviation and Missile Command, Army Combat Readiness Center, and Special Operations (Aviation) Command.

The Army's senior Aviator, Gen. James C. McConville, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, in his remarks emphasized Army priorities of readiness and modernization, as the service prepares to shift to great power competition and Multi-Domain Operations of the future.

For Soldiers who have focused on counterinsurgency for most of their careers, "the battlefield is going to get bigger, it's going to become more dispersed," McConville explained.

"In the future, we anticipate we're going to be contested at every single place on the battlefield. We're going to have to change a generation of leaders who have grown up doing something different, who haven't massed fires, who haven't had to worry very much about an intensive air defense capability," McConville said.

For the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, a major focus going forward is bringing Army accessions into the 21st century, according to Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, TRADOC commanding general.

"TRADOC builds the Army," Townsend said, as he referred to a series of presentation slides with photos depicting the recruiting process. "It's remarkable what our Army does to change these young citizens into young warriors."

Other focus areas for TRADOC include improving the quality, rigor and resourcing of Initial Entry Training, as well as Mission Command, Reform, and the Army Combat Fitness Test that looks to improve the readiness of Soldiers.

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, commanding general of the US Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, spoke about getting to the Multi-Domain Operations 2028 force and Field Manual 3-0, Operations.

"Really, our focus--if you boil it all down--it's changing our Army from an Army that is focused on counterinsurgency and stability operations to one that can compete and win in large scale combat against a great power," Lundy said.

Lundy also clarified the roles of the TRADOC Centers of Excellence in light of the standing up of Army Futures Command.

While some CFTs are collocated with the Centers, others are not. The Centers remain the force modernization proponent for the Army, as they own the entire continuum for their warfighting functions across the "DOTMLPF-P" (Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities and Policies). They also remain the branch proponents that deliver the doctrine, training and leader development, according to Lundy.

The standing up of the new command served as a forcing function for cross talk to ensure the future and fielded force are integrated and that all the conceptual work across TRADOC is on a pathway to the future force. This includes the Army's Future Vertical Lift priority, which requires that the FVL Cross Functional Team and USAACE are "connected at the hip," Lundy said.

"We didn't break what works," Lundy said. "I think we're in a better place than we've been in a long time with requirements development, requirements integration and really having a unified purpose."