By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsFebruary 5, 2019
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command stopped by The Landing Jan. 31 to share with flight school students receiving their aircraft assignments some of the wisdom he's gleaned from a distinguished career in Army Aviation, adding that he envies the journey they are embarking on.
"For all the individuals who just got their aircraft selection -- congratulations! You're about to start an incredible journey," said Brig. Gen. Allan M. Pepin immediately after the 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment Student Aircraft Selection and during the Army Aviation Association of America meeting that followed. "It's an incredible part of the Army you're joining right now in a complex world. It seems like yesterday we (more senior Aviators at the meeting) were here, and I'd change places with you in a heartbeat and start this great journey again."
Pepin's talk focused on 10 points. "I didn't prioritize them, they're just 10 random things that go through my mind and continue to go through my mind any time I engage an audience," he said.
1 - PRESERVE
"We all have the obligation to preserve the legacy of those who served before us," the general said. "It is not just a word, it's a responsibility. Preserving the legacy is also about you not assuming that prior generations didn't have it as hard as you. Because we continue to have really the same challenges they did. Some of the things they fought for -- night vision goggles, terrain-following radar systems, precision fire, all of those things exist because the people who fought before us said, 'We're doing great, but we have a gap.'
"And you'll be the next generation that will go out and do things and say, 'Hey, we're doing great, but we have a gap.' And the things in the Aviation enterprise that connect it is those fighting to have research and development, those fighting for resourcing is a huge thing. So, preserve the legacy because the last thing we can do is to lose the trust in Aviation to do this mission."
2 - TEAM
"This is a team sport, with the uniqueness that in this sport people die," Pepin said. "If you, as a new Aviator or a more senior level leader, think you're going to be able to do this alone, you will fail miserably. It will take in Aviation the crew chiefs who maintain the aircraft; the people doing the staff work to get things done, and get you the information and products and providing the operational orders and synchronizing on the battlefield; it's going to be crew members -- this is the team of teams. And the second you think you can do this alone, then you will be alone, and maybe not afraid, but you will definitely be alone and stupid, and you won't get very far."
3 - THE GROUND FORCE
"We exist to support the ground force," he added. "We exist so we can ensure the ground force has the capability that makes them more lethal -- giving them greater maneuver and mobility on the battlefield.
"And we can never lose the trust of the ground force. We have fought valiantly in 17-plus years of war to ensure the ground force has that trust, so that when they get on the radio for MEDVAC, when they make contact with the enemy and they need fire because they are in a difficult situation, when they get on the radio they have the trust that we are going to show up and provide lethal fires, timely fires and more importantly accurate fires," he added. "But just because we've done it well for so long, it can still be broken pretty fast.
"You're the new generation that's going to build that trust that's going to make the next generation of ground force commanders say, 'We can't do the mission without them,' and you're going to build your own legacy," Pepin said. "But we can never break the trust of the ground force because without them, if they're not asking for us, we do not exist. This is not a flying club."
4 - STANDARDS
"There's probably no branch in the Army that is better focused on standards than the Aviation branch, and we have to," he said. "Standards aren't just about your standards on personal conduct, it's on how we do maintenance, it's based on how we do planning, and the reason why we have doctrine and standards is so we all have a start point, a known reference on where we're going to start from, and then if we're going deviate from a doctrine or standard, we do it for the right reasons.
"What we see in Aviation is when we have bad things happen, often it is because somewhere along the line we deviated from a standard," Pepin added. "It may not just be one standard. It may have been multiple small standards being modified for no good reason, and the cumulative effect of that has reduced our ability and safety.
"It goes back to the trust in the ground force, where we're a disciplined force that relies on standards and reinforces them, and holds ourselves to the highest standards to execute the mission," he said. "That's when we're better."
5 - SOLUTIONS
"The reason I put solutions up there is we all deal with problems -- we have to figure out solutions and options at every level," Pepin said. "For new aviators and leaders -- you're going to identify problems, and make sure you have a solution. You often have a better solution from the ground up (rather than relying on higher level officials who) don't have the perspective of context to be able to solve that problem. We do need to ID problems, but without (proposing) the solution we're just passing the problem off to someone else who doesn't feel it, is not going to be emotionally connected to it, and probably won't even have the desire to fix it if you're not part of the solution."
6 - ATTITUDE
"I think attitude is a combat multiplier," he said. "There used to an old saying that false motivation is better than no motivation. The one thing we can do as the human in the loop is actually being motivated -- our attitude towards whatever the problem is.
"It starts every time we wake up in the morning," Pepin said. "Like I told the Captains Career Course (students) and a few other folks today, if the first thing you do when you wake up is not either self-studying or physical training to make yourself better, then you're part of the problem. Again, one thing I also told some of the junior leaders is that part of that attitude is the place you're in, the unit you're in, the job you're in is the best location and the best job you've ever had because you have to have that attitude."
7 - READINESS
"Readiness is just a word -- we have to actually make it a verb and then get after it," he said. "It's much harder than the word itself, it takes a lot of time and effort, and (Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general) and the enterprise are fighting to make sure you have the resources to ensure you (have what you need for) readiness. Readiness is not about just being Aviation ready and having green markers on charts -- readiness actually ties to the ground force's ability to execute the mission. Again, that is what we are designed for and that's what we are committed to."
8 - LEAD OR FOLLOW
"Even leaders have to follow," he said. "Sometimes we get guidance from the tower, and part of that attitude is you've got to embrace that guidance unless it is immoral or unethical.
"Early on in my time as a Night Stalker, many of these things were inculcated into the formation. As a young captain, you kind of knew the standards, you knew about the attitude and you knew about readiness, it was inculcated by another generation of leaders who passed it down," Pepin added. "When you're not in a leadership position, it is just as important to be a good follower to ensure that leader can actually execute the mission."
9 - COMMITMENT
"You've got to be committed to the leader's mission, and again, this branch has done an incredible job," he said. "General Gayler, thank you for your personal leadership in driving change in the branch, and this six-pack enterprise, to motivate and change processes, and how we think about these complex problems, and the commitment to preserving the legacy of this Aviation branch, and bringing it further into the future and being ready for the future."
10 - HONOR
"Every one of us has lost teammates in this long war," Pepin said. "And again, for our veterans from the prior wars who have lost teammates in previous conflicts. We continue to serve today, and we continue to improve ourselves and our formations because the honor of serving with America's finest sons and daughters, working and serving along with our coalition partners -- no day goes by that we don't realize what an incredible honor that was.
"And that's why we continue to serve," he said. "And we have many people who are now serving in a different capacity, as civilians or just helping and being a part of our society to inform on what this military does and what this Aviation Branch does. Thank you. It's been my personal honor to continue to have this opportunity to serve amongst you and ultimately to ensure that those who made the ultimate sacrifice -- we carry their honor -- and their Gold Star Families realize it was not for a lost cause."