REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (Oct. 12, 2021) – For some, a job position in Germany is a dream opportunity. For U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center’s Ben Minchhoff, it was real life.
Minchhoff recently returned to the United States after five years in Germany as a liaison engineer. Now assigned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with the 101st Airborne, Minchhoff’s career has traveled full circle.
It is actually Minchhoff’s second time at Fort Campbell, his first duty station fresh out of the United States Military Academy. That is, after aviation school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he trained to fly Black Hawk helicopters. He would then deploy to Iraq, flying combat missions with the Screaming Eagles. Once home, Minchhoff returned to Rucker to train as a maintenance officer, which from there, sent him to Germany and then again to Iraq.
After taking off his uniform for the last time, Minchhoff knew that he wanted to continue supporting Soldiers, and that becoming a liaison engineer would be a perfect fit.
“There are engineers out there who are really good engineers and there are people who are really good aircraft mechanics and pilots,” Minchhoff said. “I think the combination is unique that I had the experience to fly it but I also have the engineering background to be able to look at it from an engineering standpoint.”
While in Germany, Minchhoff was not just responsible for aircraft on his airfield but also aircraft across the continent, which provided the “every day is different” challenge that he was looking for.
“If I was lucky, I had FaceTime, or it might just be exchanging emails with a Soldier in Latvia or Poland, trying to figure out exactly what the problem was,” he said.
Returning to Germany was an easy choice, Minchhoff said, with already speaking the language and his wife originally from Europe. For the outdoorsman, the skiing, hiking and fishing opportunities were second to none. But with a teenage daughter, the Minchhoffs knew it was time to return to the United States for her high school years and Fort Campbell was the lucky duty station.
“Ben is not only an exceptionally skilled liaison engineer, but has the innate ability to successfully work with, mentor and lead others,” said Clarence Hitchings, chief of the Liaison Engineering Branch for the Maintenance Airworthiness Engineering Division in the Systems Readiness Directorate. “He keeps a level head in stressful situations when his customer is looking to him for answers. His experience and training coupled with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering also make him one of a select few liaison engineers who can both design and substantiate repairs for airframe structure.”
While his time as an Army pilot and officer has definitely benefitted him in his current role, Minchhoff said that it’s not essential to have his resume to be a successful LE. His words of advice to future liaison engineers – and aspiring engineers of all disciplines:
“Approach each problem with an open mind,” he advised. “There are usually multiple ways to solve a problem. If you approach a new problem with preconceived notions, you are going to fall into the same solution. And there might actually be a better way to do it.”
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.