U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command leaders – past and present – connected virtually Nov. 6 for a command update.
Don Nitti, AMCOM deputy to the commanding general, welcomed the group in the absence of AMCOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Todd Royar, who was called away for another mission.
“We absolutely appreciate the opportunity to give you an update on the command, some of the initiatives that we’re working and to highlight some of the great work our teams do,” Nitti said.
The update covered progress on the three lines of effort in the FY20-21 AMCOM Campaign Plan – human capital, sustainable and materiel readiness and future force – which are nested with the U.S. Army Materiel Command’s LOEs.
“In FY20, [Maj.] Gen. Royar’s focus was to continue to improve Army readiness,” Nitti said. “That was focused on the supply chain – continuing the gains that we’ve made in building strategic depth, helping the field in reducing maintenance time and fielding the combat aviation brigade authorized standardized authorized stockage list.”
“As we move into 2021, it’s more about reduction of the sustainment burden: pursuing new technologies, expanding on data analytics and properly shaping future sustainment strategies,” he continued.
LOE 1: Human capital
People are at the core of any organization and its processes and, therefore, have an impact across all the LOEs.
AMCOM G-1 Director Karen Bandera addressed the gaps in workforce development and leadership training available to the government workforce once they’ve come onboard.
“What we've done in the last couple of years is change from [a human resources] skill set to an actual training skill set,” Bandera said. “We actually have training instructors and developers and that's setting us up for success in the future going through all these new programs that we're trying to put together.
“As you know, in the military, you've gone from job to job; typically, you're trained on the job that you're going to be taking next,” Bandera posited. “In the civilian world we can't do that – you're trained in the civilian world for the job that you're in today.”
“What we're trying to do is develop programs that are going to successfully lead us and, ultimately, the employees throughout their career … from when they start in the new employee orientation, all the way to the succession planning and retirement planning,” Bandera explained. The hope is that employees will get tools to better navigate their careers.
Creation of a career-broadening program is also in the works. Among other things, it will assist with a variety of skill sets, provide mentoring opportunities for employees and chances for developmental assignments. There are programs for aspiring supervisors and, ultimately, target the retiring workforce.
Additionally, a supervisory development course will be mandatory for every supervisor; refresher course will be taken every three years. The training will be broken down into segments where, after each online module, there will be in-person sessions that will allow questions to be answered and conversations to be had.
LOE 2: Sustainable and materiel readiness
“We're improving on our strategic depth,” said AMCOM Logistics Center Executive Director Brian Wood, referring to the on-hand stock of materiel covering at least three months of demand. “A lot of work has gone into this by a lot of people.”
Wood said monthly engagements with original equipment manufacturers has helped shorten lead times and increase product delivery. “As of the end of September, [we’re] meeting strategic depth – we're continuing to make progress.”
He highlighted the first-pass supply availability of 91% achieved by the aviation team and its industry counterparts in September – the highest it’s been in about six years. “We’re really proud of that because, by having supply availability, we’re able to fill the requisitions; therefore, meeting the readiness needs of the Army,” Wood said.
Dr. Richard Parker, the executive director for the U.S. Army Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Activity, touted the successes of his organization and the major changes it’s undergone. USATA has approximately 600 employees spread across about 40 different locations.
“All of us have – in some way, shape or form – or are struggling with the transition from the industrial age to the information age. How do we go from a labor management-intensive philosophy of management to an information-age knowledge, worker-focused management?” Parker said, adding that those considerations include the need for discussions about telework and virtual teaming.
The ongoing pandemic has caused a shift in the way business is done for the Army and its industry partners.
“Although COVID[-19] has certainly been a challenge to all of us, it might also have been an accelerator for how we deal with and … transition to the information age,” Parker said.
Because the operational pace hasn’t slowed, most of USATA’s workforce – about 95% – cannot telework since they work at support sites for the operational Army. “The majority of them are wage-grade employees and their work is at their bench – that's where their tools are, so they can't really telework,” Parker explained.
But USATA has adapted and is making changes as necessary as it continues to accomplish its mission.
Rick Story, acting director of AMCOM’s Security and Assistance Management Directorate, briefed the group on foreign military sales, which he said continues to provide strong support for the industrial base and enhance security around the world.
“AMCOM commodities consistently account for over 50% of the total Army FMS sales,” Story explained. “And we're on target to have another strong year.”
Over the next five years, there’s an anticipated delivery of 168 AH-64 Apaches, 67 UH-60 Blackhawks, 34 CH-47 Chinooks, 74 rocket systems and over a dozen guided missile systems around the world.
AMCOM Aviation Branch Maintenance Officer Chief Warrant Officer 5 Mike Cavaco spoke about the upward trend in aviation fleet readiness.
The overall increase in aviation readiness is, in large part, due to the hard work of the people in the field. “The focus by commanders at all levels in the field on aviation readiness … has continued and increased, and to great end,” Cavaco said.
Though units’ operations tempo slowed down at the beginning of the pandemic, Cavaco said they’ve since begun flying again and come up with ways to work within pandemic restrictions.
Cavaco said getting aviation to the desired 85% mission capable is a lofty goal that will take a lot of effort and will take some time. Army Regulation 700-138, Army Logistics Readiness and Sustainability, has a goal of 10% not mission capable supply rate. “[Maj.] Gen. Royar took it upon himself to drive that down to 5% … just to hold ourselves to a higher level. We’ve been there for the most part,” he said. “But now we've codified that as our goal and our commitment to the field to keep that NMCS rate under 5%.”
AMCOM Missile Maintenance Officer Chief Warrant Officer 4 Araceli Rial told the group that readiness and NMCS rates for Army missile fleet systems mirror the increased deployment and operations tempo over the last 21 months.
Obsolescence and transportation issues caused challenges with some of the missile systems and have also impacted readiness rates. “It'll continue to be a challenge, but the team is really working hard to try to get ahead and get creative on how to solve some of these issues,” Rial said.
“The command is very aggressive in ensuring that we're talking about the right parts for the right reason at the right time … to posture ourselves in a better manner to ensure that we have these critical parts for the units,” Rial said.
LOE 3: Future force
The future force LOE centers on applying aviation and missile expertise and focus to ensure modernizing systems incorporate sustainment capabilities to support Army large-scale combat operations in a multi-domain environment.
“In May of 2020 … we published the AMCOM policy that's Army-wide, as far as Army aviation airworthiness policy relating to additive manufacturing,” said Kirk Keepers, AMCOM G-3, adding that the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center was extremely helpful in the initiative. “And what that does is give specific guidance to units.”
When AR 750–1, Army Materiel Maintenance Policy, is next released, AMCOM’s input about structural components and critical safety items will be included and called tier-5 items. “The tier-5 items are just AMCOM items that have the airworthiness authority of AMCOM [and] will be addressed in the [regulations],” Keepers said. “I think that’s a big win for us.”
Additive manufacturing is also a significant part of LOE 3.
The digital twin technology currently being used to scan each structural part of a UH-60L Blackhawk to create a virtual model is a major undertaking. The effort is a partnership with AMCOM, CCDC AvMC, the Department of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office, Wichita State University and researchers at the National Institute of Aviation Research.
Keepers said parts analysis is a great example of AMCOM G-3S and the execution arm within the AMCOM Logistics Center working in sync to meet the AMCOM commander’s intent.
“So this analysis – we struggled with it initially because it's kind of like the chicken-and-the-egg discussion,” Keepers said. They knew what parts they wanted to additively make but had to determine what parts can actually be made.
“Now we have a good system in place where … we go through the cost-benefit analysis, acknowledging that initially it may be expensive but in the future will provide some benefits,” he explained.
“This program provided additional opportunities to identify gaps in sustainment modernization of the current fleet … as we move as we move toward the fielding of [Improved Turbine Engine Program] and the future vertical lift next generation of air vehicles,” said Tod Glidewell, AMCOM G-3/5 Sustainment Analysis Branch lead.