By Miles BrownMay 29, 2019
Can the U.S. Army improve aviation readiness rates consistently above 75 percent? That is the burning question that more than 60 senior Army aviators, logisticians and maintainers from across the Aviation Branch tackled during the 2019 Worldwide Aviation Logistics Conference, held at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command Headquarters in Huntsville May 21-23.
Lt. Col. James Barber, the Army's G-4 Aviation Logistics Division Chief, kicked-off the WALC by posing this question and discussing the importance of their efforts during the conference.
"The recommendations we produce will be used by senior Army Aviation leaders to address sustainment issues and close known and emerging capability gaps," said Barber. "We must have one Aviation Branch effort focused on future readiness and combat capability."
The Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, has repeatedly stressed that his number one priority is readiness. And accordingly, the WALC's number one priority is finding solutions to the Aviation logistics challenges that effect readiness.
"Every one of you are subject matter experts within your organizations, and every one of you know how we can improve our aviation logistics and sustainment capability and in doing so, improve our overall aviation readiness," said Tom Barthel, AMCOM G-35's Sustainment Programs Integration Lead and annual WALC facilitator.
The challenges of maintaining the Army's current rotary-wing aircraft are numerous thanks to years of constant service in harsh and demanding environments. Additionally, the Army plans to continue flying some of these airframes for 30-50 more years. For the maintainers and logisticians, those challenges add up as the years of service increase.
The advantage of gathering experts from across the Army Aviation enterprise to address these challenges is not lost on those in attendance.
"Getting everyone together and gathering knowledge from across the Army is very valuable," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Walter Sanchez, a U.S. Army Forces Command aviation maintenance technician from Fort Bragg, NC.
"We are taking the LOEs [Lines of Effort] developed at last year's WALC and improving them. By maturing and codifying our strategies, we will improve readiness for the whole enterprise."
Those five existing LOEs being assessed and refined are championed by different enterprise components. The Program Executive Office for Aviation has led the way for LOE 1 - Acquisition and Modernization in Support of Sustainment. The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command has tackled LOE 2 - Sustainment Capacity and Capability. The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence has spearheaded efforts for LOE 3 - Processes, Practices and Doctrine and LOE 4 - Sustainment Leader and Soldier Development. Headquarters Army G-44 has taken the lead on LOE 5 - Policy, Regulation and Reporting.
After detailed reviews and updates on the status of each LOE, the WALC attendees discussed how to move forward with this year's recommendations.
According to Col. Richard Martin, the commander of the Aviation Center Logistics Command, based at Fort Rucker, Alabama, an important thing the group needs to remember is we must be willing to challenge all of our fundamental assumptions of aviation sustainment. Martin's command provides full spectrum maintenance, supply and contractor oversight in order to ensure availability for all Aviation training mission requirements in support of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Rucker and Fort Benning, Georgia.
"We often think about improving readiness rates as they relate to combat capability," said Martin. "But we are doing that anchored in our past. As we think about the future of sustaining Army Aviation, we must be willing to look at every aspect of maintenance and the sustainment warfighting function. We need to challenge exactly what mission capable really means and use that to develop our sustainment concepts around reducing our logistics footprint and the workload of the Soldiers who maintain our aircraft. That will require changes to scheduled maintenance intervals, looking at different options for field and sustainment maintenance, and a host of additional changes that keep our repair/maintenance downtimes as low as possible and thus our mission capability higher."
Ultimately, the WALC participants developed key recommendations and created a strategic way-ahead that will be developed and briefed to the Aviation Enterprise Synchronization Model (AESM) Council of Colonels. Those recommendations will then be finalized into an After Action Review and formal briefing for presentation to the Army Aviation's key leaders, collectively known as the "Six-Pack," later this summer.
The ultimate goal is changing how the Army Aviation Enterprise addresses sustainment issues, how logistics and maintenance are synchronized, and closing known and emerging capability gaps through a comprehensive overhaul of existing procedures, practices and policies.
"Our efforts will, over time, improve the readiness rates across the enterprise and ultimately improve readiness for our fighting forces," said Barber.
The annual Worldwide Aviation Logistics Conference is organized and led by Army G-4 and is historically hosted by the AMCOM G-3/5 since Redstone Arsenal is centrally located in the United States. Additionally, Alabama is home for several of the Army's aviation-centered commands.