By Lisa Eichhorn and Kelly Pate, Fort Rucker Public AffairsApril 29, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Army Aviation leaders past and present gathered April 18-21 for the 2011 Army Aviation Association of America professional forum and exposition in Nashville.
The exposition featured talks by Maj. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, and Gen. James D. Thurman, U.S. Army Forces Command commanding general, along with many other professional panels, a spouses wellness cafe and an inspiring presentation by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton.
During Crutchfield's opening remarks he urged the Soldiers, Family members, industry partners and others in attendance to look past this current fight and think about what the future of Army Aviation will look like.
"What are we doing now to adapt for the future'" he said.
Further explaining his reason for picking the theme for this year's exposition, "Full Spectrum Aviation: Resilient and Adaptive for the Future Security Environment," Crutchfield emphasized the need to not get stuck on Iraq and Afghanistan.
"After a decade of combat we know our Aviation Soldiers are tired," he said. "If you don't know that, talk to them, talk to their Families. But I'm not worried about their commitment today, I'm worried about tomorrow."
He went on to explain that while the future battlefield is unknown, it is known that it will include missions like security, peacekeeping, counter insurgency and possible full-scale war.
To prepare for the full spectrum of missions, Army Aviation must now train, adapt and equip the future force to be able to do that.
Crutchfield also thanked the Families for attending the event this year and for their dedication to supporting their Soldiers and their branch.
His wife, Kim, spoke to the audience about her efforts at this year's exposition and how it was very important to her that people not forget the spouses' commitment and contribution to the branch.
"We wanted to tie in the theme of resiliency," she said "I believe we are so much better for each other if we take care of ourselves."
Thurman opened by thanking the association for what it does for Army Aviation, and encouraged everyone to remember fallen Soldiers.
As commander of 80 percent of the Aviation force, Thurman said Army Aviation is a "key enabler" in the warfight, with more than 4.5 million combat hours flown since Febuary 2003, and 1.1 million combat hours for unmanned aircraft systems.
"If a commander wants to destroy a target, he calls Army Aviation," he said.
"More than nine years of Army Aviation's presence during protracted conflict is a story with tremendous successes. The commander on the scene always needs more Aviation," Thurman said.
The Army will have to determine how to sustain the force in light of declining budgets, as there will be continued high demand for Aviation at home and around the world. However, the budget cannot be what the Soldier worries about, the general said.
"We can never let this reduced budget get in the minds of these Soldiers on the battlefield, and we've got to do everything in the world to protect Soldiers and keep them sustained," Thurman said.
He also spoke about the 12th combat Aviation brigade activation coming up in 2012 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and building a 13th brigade to be stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., in 2013, which should help sustain the Army during high operational tempo and give Soldiers more time at home duty station between deployments.
Thurman then lauded the collective training at Fort Rucker.
"I think what Fort Rucker is doing with the Aviation training exercise is an essential ingredient to the overall Aviation training strategy," he said.
Brig. Gen. William T. Wolf, commanding general of the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center, thanked leadership and Families for making a difference in Army safety, and gave some statistics on Army Aviation incidents:
Class A Aviation incidents are historically found to result from human error.
Overconfidence shouldn't be a cause of that error, but sometimes that is the case.
Incidents shouldn't be a result of poor communications in the cockpit. In times when conversation that should be happening in the cockpit isn't happening, or becomes dysfunctional, the bottom line is "We're better than that," Wolf said.
Brig. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command Provisional, talked about collaboration among the Aviation Enterprise.
The command activated during a ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 25.
"We're trying to make sure every precedent we set is one that we are proud of," he said of the new unit.
The goal in standing up Army Special Operations Aviation Command is to enable Soldiers to focus on the warfight by taking some of the generating force functions off Soldiers, the regiment commander and the regiment staff, he said.
"We are absolutely oriented on Major General Crutchfield's aim point. We have the same obsolescence challenges as the rest of the fleet does. There is a great demand for special operations forces. USSOCOM has more than doubled in size since Sept. 11, 2001, while the mission load has quadrupled," he said.
He went on to say the 160th has maintained continuous presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, which puts unique demands on the organization. However, it's paying off on the battlefield.
"Army Aviation and special operations, in conjunction with our brigade combat team and Joint partners, are having a devastating effect on the enemy," he said.
"Army Aviation has never been better - the demands on our combat Aviation brigades have never been higher. The demands on our special operations Aviation forces have never been higher. The demands are just different," he said.
While the exposition was an encompassing event focused on the future of Army Aviation, Shelton was asked to speak about personal resiliency, a key theme of this year's event.
He described how he felt after a fall from a ladder just months after he retired that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He said, "The doctor came in and told me I'd never walk again."
"I looked at him and said 'your name is not God, is it' He said 'no,' I said then we'll just see about that."
Shelton added that he was determined from that point forward to walk again, and indeed he is walking.
He wanted the Army Aviation community to use the things he had learned to help them stay resilient. To do that he described the four main things he learned during the recovery process. The first is: never take hope away from an individual, ever; the second is never, never, never quit, even if the odds are small and against you; the third is keep your sense of humor and the fourth is to have a strong faith to carry you through.
"You are all good people," he said. "Your country is better because of you."