REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Aug. 12, 2021) – When one thinks of aviation, they naturally think of pilots.
But there are so many more personnel who are essential to getting an aircraft off the ground – and landing it safely. Among those are the liaison engineers who call the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center home – although “home” is in a lot of different places.
“Liaison engineers are a small group of engineers providing onsite support and are the airworthiness authority for our customers at various locations around the world,” said DEVCOM AvMC Systems Readiness Directorate Liaison Engineer Tammy Griffin, who is stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama. “Fort Rucker is the home of the Army aviation helicopter training school. There are more than 400 aircraft here, which are maintained by a large contract maintenance workforce and used to train Army aviators. Two liaison engineers are assigned to Ft. Rucker, and we provide the engineering support to those fleets and address maintenance issues that might be beyond what is in the technical manuals.”
Because of the vastness of the fleet, Griffin and her fellow liaison engineer have to be jack-of-all-trades and knowledgeable in the intricacies of the different aircraft. Griffin is quick to say that she does not call herself an “expert,” but she also does not have the ease of only focusing on one particular aircraft. And when capabilities are always changing, “every day is different,” she said.
Griffin’s interest in aerospace was piqued at a young age after a trip to Cape Canaveral to tour its NASA facility. And while outer space was her original goal, when the opportunity to work for the Army opened, Griffin took a chance and quickly learned that she loved the hands-on aspect of the job.
“We look at the different systems in the actual aircraft, being on-site. Instead of trying to figure something out from a diagram or drawing or picture, we just walk out to see it in-person.”
Griffin said that a challenge liaison engineers often face is isolation – even though they work closely with the maintenance support – and as such, she has learned to cultivate professional relationships with aviation experts she can reach out to when solving problems.
Griffin’s dedication to her work has definitely been noticed. In February 2021, she received the Robert Tarquine Award, an honor given to Army professionals who have made significant contributions to value engineering.
The engineering gene runs in Griffin’s family, with her two daughters pursuing engineering degrees from Griffin’s alma mater, Auburn University. Her son went in a different direction – two-fold – and is a dental student at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, after graduating from the University of Alabama –which makes family gatherings spirited, Griffin said with a laugh.
After a 26-year career in Army aviation, Griffin said she tries to impart some accumulated wisdom to her daughters and guide them through their own engineering journeys, encouraging them to get involved and, “find a cool project. Something outside of class -- a club or team that you can actually go in person and do some hands-on kind of stuff. Really see in person what you are learning about. Because when you get older and you look back, you will think, ‘I see it now!’ because you have seen it in application.”
The DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the Army’s research and development focal point for advanced technology in aviation and missile systems. It is part of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command. AvMC is responsible for delivering collaborative and innovative aviation and missile capabilities for responsive and cost-effective research, development and life cycle engineering solutions, as required by the Army’s strategic priorities and support to its Cross-Functional Teams.