Army Regulation (AR) 700-138, Army Logistics Readiness and Sustainability, requires aircraft reporting according to established Department of the Army (DA) readiness goals. Aircraft ready-to-launch (RTL) rates correlate with the mission equipment package. RTL rates allow commanders to determine their capability to accomplish a specific mission. Aviation sustainers must refocus their efforts on reducing the aviation commander’s decision-making cycle when determining the ability to execute a specific mission and the ability to execute full-spectrum missions. Sustainers owe DA readiness levels to consumers of readiness. Consumers of readiness operate within the operations and maneuver directorates, while producers of readiness operate within the sustainment directorates and commands. At echelons above brigade, RTL is a short-term snapshot of the maneuver commander’s capability to deliberate mission acceptance. Conversely, sustainment of readiness at DA goals is foundational to providing flexibility, endurance, and extended operational reach. Various joint and Army-specific publications reference these foundational tools, providing the bridge between strategic focus and tactical operations.
Headquarters, Department of the Army Execution Order 157-18 defines the criteria for calculating RTL rates. The Addendum to Gen-19-AMAM-01, Aviation Systems Readiness Reporting Procedures, defines the criteria for calculating logistics readiness rates. The evolution of creep is beginning to imply RTL and operational readiness (OR) percentages are interchangeable. They are not. The determination of both percentages is derived from independent sources. AR 220-1, Army Unit Status Reporting and Force Registration — Consolidated Policies, instructs troops to maintain operationally ready equipment as fully mission capable. Ergo, simply writing RTL/OR is a misrepresentation of both terms. Recalibrating our thoughts will be difficult, but separating short- and long-term responsibilities is a start. The brigade aviation maintenance officer (BAMO) assists logisticians with this problem set. The BAMO publishes the aircraft daily status report (DSR) to stakeholders, and it can reflect the RTL rate based on the commander’s guidance and intent. This daily RTL is for the maneuver force. The Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program portal houses monthly reports showing battalion performance in relation to DA readiness goals. This monthly report is for sustainers.
Sustainers are to examine monthly readiness rates and group limitations to readiness based on systems, supply, training, organization, maintenance, personnel, and doctrine. Develop-ment of the why may span different organizations and echelons. Root cause analysis (RCA) requires the examiner to look down and within the reporting organization, horizontally for best practices, and up and out to supporting organizations or industry partners. Failure to develop a long-term approach to resolving OR rates at the enterprise level contributes to a reduction in full-scale capability and increased limitations in understanding true sustainment challenges.
Automated systems continue to evolve, and consumers depend on them to provide the common operational picture that drives the decision cycle. Manual systems still contribute to the same decision cycle. We need to get better at eliminating redundancy. Stakeholders in the aviation community receive the DSR via a spreadsheet or slideshow attachment. Decision makers at echelon depend on the movement of that manual process through the email channels and up to the interested level. Aircraft Notebook is the system of record for recording rotary wing aviation statuses. Global Combat Support System-Army is the system of record for providing information about movement or repair parts. We are getting better at integrating efforts between the two systems, but we have more work to do. Manual systems sent via email denote RTL rates. DA Form 1352, Army Aircraft Inventory, Status and Flying Time, depicts OR rates. Sustainers must therefore focus on the DA Form 1352 system and not on the daily manual report unless that DSR shows the running monthly DA goals. The integrity of the respective system remains a human factor, and analysis of the RCA requires pertinent consideration.
Army Doctrine Publication 4-0, Sustainment, defines Class IX supplies. Accountable officers at a supply support activity conduct an authorized stockage list (ASL) review each year. The demand signal from the supported echelon contributes to the overall outcome of the review. Technical supply officers within the brigade conduct a shop stock list (SSL) review for their demand period. Consumption of repair parts and discipline with the ordering process contribute to the outcome of the ASL and SSL review. Discipline is important. Commanders enforce discipline through the Command Supply Discipline Program (CSDP) as outlined in AR 710-2, Supply Policy Below the National Level. The DA monthly goal for non-mission capable rate due to supply is below 5%. Across the enterprise, the six-month average between May 2022 and October 2022 held steady at 4%. The AH-64 Apache community reflects 5%, and the CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk reflect 4%. This is good news for sustainers. Further analysis shows some troubled areas, but the focus on providing repair parts at the point of need and at the right time remains high among sustainers.
The DA goal for a non-mission capable rate due to maintenance is below 10%. We demonstrated higher than 19% across the H-60, H-47, and H-64 fleet between May and October 2022. The introduction of the Aviation Maintenance Training Program (AMTP) will address the long-term capability to fix aircraft. We must fully invest in the development of the program to maximize its potential. One factor to consider is the development of a simulator to increase the sets and reps for maintainers. Aircraft systems remain complex, and future aircraft acquisition will add to the complexity. The sustainment base must acquire a simulation system for aviation maintenance. Simulation involving sitting at a computer while using a mouse to point and click is insufficient. The simulator must be realistic and model activities performed, personnel positions, materiel-handling equipment, and tools used. Inefficiencies of our maintainers could contribute to our 21% non-mission capable rate due to the maintenance average across the enterprise. Advertised turnaround times may not be attainable, given our unfamiliarity with maintenance events. We could be more efficient.
We must empower team leaders with the ability to train those in their charge. Aviation maintainers use problem, people, parts, plan, time, tools, and technical assistance to assess throughput. This includes the intent to train personnel unfamiliar with a task. The risk for the commander is time for task completion. The return on investment is adding a trained Soldier to the formation that could be the next trainer. This is an exponential effort. Whenever possible, commanders must allow additional training of their maintainers. Readiness consumers must establish a minimum requirement for RTL. A reduced RTL today could lead to an increased OR at the end of the reporting period.
Personnel assigned does not equal personnel capable of performing the work. Leaders at echelon must get to know personnel within their charge and be prepared to employ them in areas that will lead to their success. This isn’t easy, and the enterprise is wrapping our collective efforts around talent management. Talent management is not a quick win. It intertwines with the AMTP and requires continuous dialogue between the team leader, the senior maintenance evaluator, and the command team. Sustainers at echelon have roles to play in talent management. We must recognize, train, and retain the talent we have.
The culture within an organization directly reflects its desire to move its performance needle in a positive direction. Use the full extent of AR 1-201, Army Inspection Policy, to evaluate your organization. A staff assistance visit (SAV) is within the inspection program’s scope but is not an inspection. Use SAVs to train, assist, and teach lower echelons. It does not produce a formal report of observations and findings. SAVs are not limited to CSDPs and the Command Maintenance Discipline Program. They can provide detailed sustainment assistance and serve as force multipliers.
Written directives, policies, and procedures invariably affect the speed and accuracy at which we achieve throughput. Publications accomplish a known task, and a change in the desired outcome of that task requires revisiting the publication. The responsibility of notifying the publication author of an outdated reference belongs to everyone within the organization. Sustainers must remain engaged at all levels and continue to encourage investment into current doctrine.
Army aviation is an expensive service. It is expensive to fly and it is expensive to fix. We mandate rigid flying rules, which means it’s more work to fix the fleet when it breaks. Acceptance of a certain RTL rate by the operator does not equal the same performance metrics for the sustainer. We must strive to go beyond the now and develop habits that will expand availability tomorrow. Acquisition of future aircraft types and systems will not reduce our sustainment burden. The development of a culture to stay ahead of the sustainment curve will not only increase the sustainer’s proficiency but will also reduce the need for the maneuver commander to guess which aircraft is ready to perform a specific mission. OR rates are ours, and we as sustainers must own them as if the lives of our brothers and sisters in arms depend on it.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Onwah Campbell serves as the Senior Aviation Maintenance Technician for Central Command. Campbell has completed all levels of the Warrant Officer Professional Military Education and has a master’s degree in Information Management with a focus on project management from the University of Arkansas Grantham. Campbell is a certified Project Management Professional, a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, and a Demonstrated Master Logistician.
This article was published in the Winter 23 issue of Army Sustainment.