ROTC cadets from Florida A&M University — one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Florida State University visited the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence to learn more about the aviation branch March 4, 2022.
The goal for the visit was to educate cadets about the capabilities and purpose of Army aviation by providing an opportunity to hear from senior leaders, experience some of the simulators and aircraft, and tour the Museum.
Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, USAACE and Fort Rucker commander, kicked off the event by welcoming the cadets in a session held at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.
“The profession of arms is an exciting team, and very few people don the uniform of our service, and I commend you all for that because our nation needs you right now,” Francis said. “If you want to do something that makes a difference, you’re wearing the uniform that makes a difference.”
Francis said the Museum is a “special place” where the cadets could see on display the aircraft and legacy of aviation’s past all the way back to World War I, including Army aviation becoming a branch in 1983, and how today the Army is transforming.
“Not only do we have the most advanced aircraft in the world in the Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook, but we’re developing things right now that will come to pass as you’re getting ready to come into the Army, or very close to it, that are going to exceed anything that we’ve ever imagined in the past,” Francis said.
Francis said he had one message for those interested in the aviation branch who might have a tendency to self-eliminate because of their own doubts or misconceptions.
“Don’t count yourself out,” he said. “The secret people don’t really understand is that if you make yourself competitive you have a great shot at becoming an Army aviator.”
Cadets interested in aviation should go ahead and get a flight physical, and take the Selection Instrument for Flight Training (SIFT test), he explained.
“We’re looking for the whole person — people that want to lead, that are adaptive and agile, and can react to change,” he said.
Francis also conducted a question-and-answer session with the cadets to help dispel myths about Army aviation and respond to a broad range of questions about the branch.
Lt. Col. Linus D. Wilson, deputy director of the USAACE’s Office of Personnel and Force Development, said he appreciated Francis taking the time to speak directly with cadets during the event.
USAACE conducts multiple outreach opportunities throughout the year to provide cadets the exposure to the branch that they would otherwise not have, in hopes that they decide to branch aviation.
“A lot of them are not aware. Sometimes their military instructors are not aviation, so they tend to fall in the footsteps of their mentors,” Wilson said.
“It also takes exposure to aviation from people that look and sound like you as well, to see that hey, there’s a place for me to fit and I can have a successful career. That mentorship is really key,” Wilson said.
After speaking with cadets throughout the day, Wilson said their reactions were “pure excitement and joy,” and after the event more cadets showed interest in branching aviation.
Capt. Bryce Greenwood, senior aviation proponent manager at OPFD, said their office has touchpoints planned with more than 2,000 cadets this year as part of their outreach efforts to educate cadets about the careers in the aviation branch.
The team from OPFD typically reaches out to colleges and universities within a two-hour driving distance from the post, including well-known HBCUs like Tuskegee University and Florida A&M University. Their target audience are sophomores and juniors who still have time to take the SIFT test and get their flight physical.
“We try to get out there early before they go out to their cadet training their junior summer. Their senior year is when they find out their branches and we go through the accessions process,” Greenwood said.
In the past, area high school Junior ROTC programs have also visited Fort Rucker.
Greenwood explained the nature of accessions has changed.
“It is no longer is it just a snap of the chalk line from (grade-point average) and your cadet summer training order of merit list. It is now a talent-based branch, we get a holistic look at each cadet so not only do they have the Talent Assessment Battery, where they get to test their cognitive and noncognitive skill sets, we also offer them a video recorded interview which is really a tool for them to get to tell us about the nuances of them,” Greenwood said.
OPFD’s outreach efforts are nested within the acquisition line of effort in the Army People Strategy, and also with the Army Talent Management Task Force’s combat arms outreach including HBCU’s as well as Hispanic Serving Institutes, as they look for a diverse talent pool, he explained.
The Army now has a Virtual Branch Outreach site where people can click on all the 17 branches of the Army to learn more. This site provides contact information, a message from the USAACE commanding general, aviator interviews from all three components about why they chose to serve in the aviation branch, as well as more information about the branch.
For more information, visit https://vbo.army.mil.