FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- A panel of Army senior leaders discussed air-ground integration at Fort Rucker Jan. 28 during the 2010 Army Aviation Senior Leaders Conference.

Maj. Gen. James O. Barclay III, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general; Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, Fort Benning, Ga., commanding general; Maj. Gen. James M. Milano, Fort Knox, Ky., and U.S. Army Armor Center commanding general; and Maj. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins, U.S. Army North, (Fifth Army), Fort Sam Houston, Texas, deputy commanding general, gave their thoughts on the challenges and future of integrating air and ground operations.

"Air-ground integration is a growth industry and we have to build on the success of what we have learned over the past eight years" said Barclay. "It's about coordination, understanding and execution, along with people and relationships and making sure those relationships are strong."
Ground commanders use air-ground integration to synch Aviation support into their missions, and like any other supporting effort, aircrews need specific mission details to execute the ground commander's intent, according to Barclay.

He also explained that Aviation support increases the distance the ground worker can see, reduces the enemy's freedom of movement and provides early warning for their missions. A well-rounded knowledge of how assets work for a unit can become a force multiplier.

According to the leaders, there are also challenges facing integration of air and ground warfighters, including communication and training. Ground leaders at times can overlook the fact that Aviators also need the mission details just as the ground crew does.

"We're taking advantages of lessons learned, trying to mitigate the impacts of modularity," said Milano. "Modularity in all its goodness has caused some challenges. Conducting training of air integration at the home station before getting to theater is an important issue."

According to Barclay, sometimes Aviation brigades are not being deployed with their divisions. "So, when they're at home, the ground workers are not, creating a challenge to conduct joint training."

The panel agreed on the importance of cohesion and training junior officers to become more comfortable working with Aviators.

"How does the warfighter on the ground paint a picture for the fighter in the air' This just doesn't happen. It takes work," said Milano.

Ferriter, who lived on Fort Rucker as a child when his father was stationed here, is the first commander of the newly opened Army Maneuver Center for Excellence at Fort Benning which is linked to the Aviation force through its simulation-based training of captains and noncommissioned officers.

"Training at the center allows air and ground teams to work together using the same kind of system that they'll use to fight together while deployed," Ferriter said.

Milano also touched on the topic of unmanned aircraft systems, and said they are great combat multipliers and integrating them into various operations would be ideal.

"It is another means to conduct surveillance and augment our reconnaissance mission," said Milano. "I've had experiences where my division commander wanted three air weapons teams up in the air. That's a huge fighter management challenge and these (unmanned aircraft) could be a positive help."

According to Barclay, it is up to commanders and sergeants major to ensure that feedback is being given on training issues, so that challenges can be understood and dealt with.

"We've gathered a lot of information, but we need to take it to the next level," Barclay said. We're taking great steps in the right direction."