The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence bid farewell to its outgoing Aviation branch command sergeant major, and welcomed its new leader during a change of responsibility ceremony on Howze Field Nov. 20.
Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Wilson, incoming Command Sergeant Major of the Aviation Branch accepted responsibility from outgoing Command Sgt. Maj. Brian N. Hauke during the ceremonial passing of the Aviation Branch Colors as officiated by Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general.
During the ceremony Hauke and wife Maj. Christi A. Hauke also were officially retired from the Army.
Francis welcomed those attending in person and joining via social media live stream.
“What a fantastic day to celebrate the careers of a great noncommissioned officer and great officer, and bring in the new team here at Fort Rucker,” Francis said.
Francis welcomed Wilson, his wife Lisa and their family to Fort Rucker and the Wiregrass area of Alabama.
“We are excited to unleash your passion for Soldiers, your experience in leader development and training, as we prepare the aviation branch to face the threats of the future,” Francis said.
“You bring unique experience, combat experience, and a skill set that is exactly what we need in the branch right now, and I have no doubt that you are up to the task. Jodie and I truly look forward to serving with you, Lisa and your family,” he said.
Wilson comes to Fort Rucker from his most recent assignment as U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (Airborne) Command Sergeant Major, Fort Bragg, N.C.
His previous assignments with the 160th SOAR included serving as 160th SOAR Regiment Command Sergeant Major and Command Sergeant Major of Task Force 1-160th SOAR (Airborne) at Fort Campbell, Ky.
He served as Command Sergeant Major of 4th Battalion, 160th SOAR, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and as Recruiting Sergeant Major for 160th SOAR (Abn), Fort Campbell, Ky.
A native of Beaufort, S.C., Wilson also previously served with the U.S. Air Force.
Wilson’s awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and eight air medals including three Air Medals with Valor Device.
Wilson thanked those who attended the ceremony.
“I know there’s no place I’d rather be, and I assume you all feel the same way,” Wilson said.
Wilson thanked Francis for the “incredible opportunity” to serve as the Aviation branch command sergeant major, and explained his job interview with Francis largely focused on family.
“That tells you a lot about a person. He knows when you get to this level you probably know how to soldier. What he wanted to know is what kind of person you are,” Wilson said. “Sir, I appreciate this opportunity greatly.”
“Lisa and I are both humbled and excited to be part of this great team, surrounded by all these great Americans here at the Army Aviation Center of Excellence. And we look forward to meeting and working with all the families, civilians and soldiers here at Fort Rucker, and at all of the out stations,” he said.
Wilson thanked the Hauke couple for a smooth transition, and for their years of service.
“The nation owes you both a debt of gratitude,” Wilson said.
A theme throughout the ceremony was the importance of family to Soldiers and the Army, as Francis noted the strong show of support from home for the two leaders.
Francis recognized a special Hauke family member in attendance: Hauke’s grandfather, William Hauke, a member of the Greatest Generation who flew B-29 bomber aircraft in World War II.
During his time in service, William overflew the surrender ceremony conducted on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay in September of 1945, which officially brought an end to World War II, the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history.
“As a bomber pilot he always critiqued the navigation skills of the fighter pilots of the day in P-51 Mustangs,” Francis said, as he recounted some of William’s stories of exploits.
In fact, the Hauke family lineup at the ceremony included four generations of military service.
“There are five generations of Haukes sitting with us here today. Four of those generations either having served, or currently serving in uniform. It’s an incredible legacy of service,” Francis said.
Francis explained the USAACE develops leaders and drives change, and Hauke set the bar high in both areas.
Hauke was the driving force behind a holistic redesign of Aviation Maintenance Advanced Leader Course, resulting in a relevant course of instruction for aviation maintenance sergeants impacting all three Army components.
“As we shift our focus from counterinsurgency to large scale combat operations, that change in leader development is very timely and absolutely necessary for our branch,” Francis said.
Francis commended the Haukes for “keeping the most important asset we have in our Army together--a family,” he said.
He thanked Maj. Christi Hauke for her work, her mentorship at Fort Rucker as a senior spouse and for building lasting partnerships across the local community in support of the Fort Rucker mission, Soldiers, and families.
“Thank you for your service, your dedication to our branch, to each other and this extraordinary country and her citizens. Thank you for taking care of Army aviation Soldiers and their families in such an exceptional fashion,” Francis said.
Hauke thanked Francis for the opportunity to serve as the branch CSM.
“It’s been the highlight of my career to serve our branch. Thank you for allowing me the freedom on the battlefield and to act in the best interest of our aviation Soldiers and the branch,” Hauke said.
He thanked leaders and Soldiers he has been able to “fly, fix and fight” with during his career, and his family for their support and for the legacy of service begun by his World War II veteran aviator and grandfather in attendance.
“To my grandfather--the Greatest Generation, what can be said? You and grandma were always there and we are proud of the legacy you started and the legacy you will leave. We can all only hope to be 100 years young someday. Thank you,” Hauke said.