The year 2020 has been a year like many have never seen and the likes of one we hope to never see again. It’ll be remembered as the year COVID-19, face coverings, social distancing, videoconferencing and teleworking became the norm while frequent traveling and in-person events seemed a thing of the past.
As the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command readies for 2021, it looks back on a small fraction of the milestones and accomplishments achieved in 2020.
Key personnel moves
The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command bid farewell to one deputy to the commanding general and welcomed another when Don Nitti assumed the role in March after Bill Marriott’s retirement in January after 44 years of federal service. Nitti was formerly the executive director of AMCOM Logistics Center.
After five years, Dr. Myra Gray left her role the executive director for the U.S. Army Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Activity to assume duties as the executive director and, later, deputy to the commanding general for the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command. Dr. Richard Parker was appointed as the new USATA director.
Col. Gail Atkins relinquished command of Corpus Christi Army Depot to Col. Joseph Parker May 29.
Col. Stephen W. Owen assumed command of the Aviation Center Logistics Command from Col. Rich Martin in a virtual ceremony June 23 at Fort Rucker, Alabama. At the same ceremony, Sgt. Maj. Nicholas D. Burney assumed responsibility as ACLC’s sergeant major when Sgt. Maj. Jerry Cowart retired after more than 30 years in uniform.
Martin then made the move to be the AMCOM chief of staff upon the July departure of Col. Richard Zampelli, the previous AMCOM CoS.
Rick Story became the acting director of AMCOM Security Assistance Management Directorate when Brian Wood was selected to be the ALC director in August.
Letterkenny Army Depot hosted a retirement ceremony Nov. 19 in honor of Sgt. Maj. Richard A. Huff, former LEAD command sergeant major, marking 32 years of service. Sgt. Maj. Scott Haymaker stepped into the role.
CCAD said goodbye to Sgt. Maj. Patricia A. Wahl at a relinquishment-of-command ceremony, Dec. 2. The position will be filled in January.
The Letterkenny Army Depot workforce was recognized for producing 828 Mine Resistance Ambush Protected RG-31 vehicles at a one-truck-per-day rate. Initial planning efforts for the RG-31 program began in 2012 and the depot completed 10 pilot vehicles in 2013. Upgrades to those trucks included increased horsepower, transmission series and the addition of independent suspension. The latest configuration also included the addition of 360-degree spotlights for night visibility, an armored gunner’s hatch, crew ballistic footrests, gunner-protection kits and a robot deployment system for mine detection.
The AMCOM antiterrorism team earned top large-unit honors at the 2020 Army Worldwide Antiterrorism training seminar in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 24-28. The team provides assistance to more than 25 AMCOM directorates and units at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas; Letterkenny Army Depot, Pennsylvania; and the Aviation Command Logistics Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Spc. Jariel Fuentes, a military police officer based at LEAD in Pennsylvania, was the first runner-up in the U.S. Army Materiel Command Best Warrior competition July 9-10. Staff Sgt. Michael Kelly, ACLC CH-47 helicopter repairer; Sgt. Cody Cohen, LEAD military police officer; and Cpl. Jackie Hernandez, military police officer at Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas, all represented AMCOM in the contest.
Two U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command employees received the 2020 Association of the United States Army Civilian of the Year Award during a Facebook Live town hall Sept. 24. Don Nitti, AMCOM deputy to the commanding general, and Elizabeth Raymond, AMCOM military human resources specialist, both came out on top for the Huntsville Chapter. Nitti also won at the third region level.
Marsha Bailey, AMCOM Logistics Center Utility Directorate director, was nominated in the technical/technical management division. Scott Howison, AMCOM physical scientist, was nominated for the professional/technical award.
Of 364 eligible attorneys in the AMC footprint, Andy Hughes was selected from the seven nominated to vie for the command’s highest award for lawyers. Hughes, who has been with AMCOM since 2008, was named this the 2020 Joyce I. Allen Attorney of the Year in October.
Two of the three AMCOM 101 forums hosted in 2020 were among the last major in-person gatherings before travel restrictions were emplaced due to COVID-19. AMCOM 101 for Aviation and AMCOM 101 for Missiles were hosted in February and March, respectively. For the first time, a second AMCOM 101 for Aviation – conducted entirely virtually – convened in November to accommodate those who missed the first one due to deployments.
These forums focus on increasing awareness of the available resources from AMCOM and the U.S. Army Materiel Command and featured speakers from AMCOM, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Program Executive Office – Aviation and Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team.
AMCOM hosted Team Redstone’s 2020 Center of Excellence Advance Planning Briefings to Industry March 2-4, themed, “Innovating to increase supply availability and reduce the warfighter maintenance burden.”
“This event is all about making sure that we [federal agencies] can provide you [industry partners] with the details on our future plans and programs,” said AMCOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Todd Royar. “We need to give you enough information so you can plan accordingly and ask the right questions to set your companies up for success. When you are successful, we [the government] get better products and services to support our nation’s warfighters.”
AMCOM hosted its first former leader forum through Microsoft Teams Nov. 6. 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 response to the pandemic and in an effort to stop the spread of the virus that has wrought havoc on the world, LEAD’s upholstery shop was authorized to begin production of face coverings for every employee on the depot. The initial production was made from a stockpile of unused t-shirts. From the available 1,200 shirts, employees could produce four masks per shirt at a rate of ten masks per minute, according to Jerod Weilacher, director of LEAD’s Directorate of Supply and Transportation. Within two days, depot upholsterers cut 4,800 face coverings which provide employees and tenants on the installation with two coverings each.
After a local health system learned of LEAD’s upholstery shop’s efforts, it asked for assistance in creating 70,000 isolation gowns for a healthcare organization. “As a result of our capabilities, we can adjust to changing requirements, and this is what we have done,” said LEAD Manufacturing and Fabrication
Division Chief George Coble. “We can support the warfighter while pivoting to support the healthcare industry during this state of pandemic.”
Within 48 hours of the Secretary of Defense’s memorandum directing the use of personal face coverings, AMCOM’s ACLC contractors tailored operations to mass produce personal facemasks for the nearly 4,000 ACLC employees and M1 Support Services contractors, as well as the larger Fort Rucker population. This initiative grew from producing 350 masks per day to full-scale operations producing 800 masks per day.
The Army’s first Modernized Flexible Engine Diagnostic System came to Fort Rucker, Alabama, under ACLC. MFEDS is a test cell that assesses the flight readiness of engines after repair and before they are reinstalled on an aircraft. The system is capable of testing the T-700 series engines used on UH-60 Black Hawks and AH-64 Apaches and the T-55 engines mounted on the CH-47 Chinooks.
Through a partnership with AMCOM, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center, the Department of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office, Wichita State University and researchers at the National Institute of Aviation Research, AMCOM commissioned a virtual model of a UH-60L Black Hawk. Researchers will completely disassemble one of the airframes from Corpus Christi and capture a 3-D scan of each structural part, creating a virtual model – or digital twin – of the workhorse of Army aviation.
“This opens a new door to aviation maintenance and sustainment,” AMCOM Commanding General Maj. Gen. Todd Royar said.
AMCOM published a policy memorandum addressing advanced manufacturing for Army aircraft parts, components and support products.
“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 DEVCOM AvMC 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 referred to as 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.”
The ACLC Executive Director Brian Wood touched on the improvement of strategic depth, the quantity of on-hand stock of materiel covering at least three months of demand, during the former leader forum.
Wood said monthly engagements with original equipment manufacturers helped shorten lead times and increase product delivery. He highlighted the first-pass supply availability of 91% achieved by the aviation team and its industry counterparts in September – the highest seen in about six years.
USATA’s new director touted the successes of his organization and the major changes undertaken. USATA has approximately 600 employees spread across about 40 different locations. 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.
Rick Story, AMCOM’s SAMD acting director, said 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 over the next five years.
AMCOM Aviation Branch Maintenance Officer Chief Warrant Officer 5 Mike Cavaco spoke about the upward trend in aviation fleet readiness that is, in large part, due to the hard work of 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.”
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 said 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.
Despite the pandemic that has plagued 2020 and challenges wrought from it, AMCOM has risen to the occasion to adapt and overcome. The command is ready to take on whatever 2021 has in store.