NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas -- U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Antonio Aguto, Jr., commanding general of First Army, visited soldiers assigned to 11th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade (ECAB) during their mobilization at North Fort Hood, to assess their mission capability and engage with its brigade leaders down to each individual company on Tuesday.
U.S. Army Col. Matthew Hill, 11th ECAB commander, was joined by other members of the brigade command team and staff to brief Lt. Gen. Aguto on the brigade’s equipment, personnel, and training objectives. The engagement cultivated a shared understanding of the mission across all levels of leadership as well as sustaining the brigade’s mission readiness.
“What truly matters to me is that I am able to see these leaders in person and focus on getting them every resource they need to be successful,” Aguto stated. “My presence here is insignificant without them.”
The 11th ECAB is currently executing the largest mobilization in US Army Reserve aviation history, and will combine the precision of its aviation assets, including the UH-60 Black Hawk and the CH-47 Chinook, along with the lethality of its crews and support personnel. The mobilization tasks and validations the brigade completes, with assistance from Observer, Coach/Trainers of the 166th Aviation Brigade and 120th Infantry Brigade, will ultimately enable 11th ECAB’s readiness to complete a range of world-wide missions with enhanced effectiveness.
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. John McDwyer, command sergeant major of First Army, accompanied Lt. Gen. Aguto and staff from First Army as they made their way from the 11th ECAB’s tactical operations center to Longhorn Airfield to interact with Soldiers from the 7-158th General Support Aviation Battalion and the 90th Aviation Support Battalion.
“While you are here, we want you to train. We don’t want anyone to leave here wishing they had done something they hadn’t practiced as often as they could,” McDwyer said during the briefing that morning. “When you all go out the door, we want to make sure everyone comes back.”
Throughout the afternoon, Soldiers from the 11th ECAB command team all the way down to junior enlisted were given an opportunity to speak with Aguto and McDwyer about their training experiences and discuss about any resources they felt mobilizing units need to accomplish their mission ahead.
Aguto also recognized multiple soldiers across the brigade for the work that they do to safely conduct aviation operations and training.
U.S. Army Spc. Jesselyn Barkley, a signal systems support specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th ECAB, was one of the Soldiers recognized by Lt. Gen. Aguto for her exceptional contributions to her team.
“It was an honor to meet such a prestigious officer,” said Barkley. “Having the chance to talk openly and honestly about myself and hear him acknowledge everything I was saying made his visit even more special for me.”
U.S. Army Spc. Skylar Pearson, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief with Alpha Company, 7-158th GSAB, 11th ECAB, also had the opportunity to share a heartfelt moment with Lt. Gen. Aguto.
“Getting to speak to him made me feel like the work I have been doing matters,” Pearson said. “Nobody made him stand there and listen to each of us out on the airfield, but I could tell he was there because he genuinely cared.”
The visit culminated in Lt. Gen. Aguto sitting down over a meal with Soldiers at the airfield, while sharing Army stories, laughs, and wisdom on how to best succeed as the brigade continues to conduct training and strive towards excellence in Army aviation, both, at home and abroad.