By Mollie MillerFebruary 5, 2008
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Army News Service, Feb. 5, 2008) -- Active and retired Army leaders from around the globe came together at Fort Rucker this week to discuss the health of Army Aviation and how they can work together to keep the branch strong far into the future during the 2008 Army Aviation Senior Leaders Conference.
"We want to optimize the capability of our great Army and of Army Aviation and we can't do it without each of you," Maj. Gen. Virgil L. Packett II, U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center and Fort Rucker commanding general, said Tuesday during his welcome to conference attendees. "We are all in this together."
As aviation commanders, senior noncommissioned officers, senior warrant officers and retired general officers listened intently, Packett offered his thanks to each of them for their attendance at the conference and reminded them why they were there.
"We are having this conference so we can make sure we are integrated," he said. "This is a leaders conference where we can sit down and share ideas and try to figure out exactly what is on your mind and where you want to go."
During his remarks, Packett touched on several topics pertaining to the health and future of Army Aviation. The commander said that today there are 58,000 Soldiers in the Army Aviation community, that 85 percent of Aviation Military Occupational Specialties are now wearing combat patches and that retention numbers are "off the charts."
"There is a remarkable energy and brotherhood out there," he said. "In days gone by, we haven't had this kind of energy."
Packett also praised the branch's "new starts," seven new aircraft the leaders would have the opportunity to "get their hands on" during static displays throughout the conference.
The general emphasized the importance of the partnership between National Guard, Reserve and active-duty aviation Soldiers and said the success of that partnership is integral to the future success of the Army.
"You are not going to hear me talk about the difference between our National Guard, Reserve and active components because we are in it together - we are in it deep together," he said. "We are committed in this thing together and we can't do it without each other."
Packett said the energy and excitement in the branch today are important parts of carrying Army Aviation far into the future and leaders must be committed to keeping it alive.
"There is no other branch in the Army that has the same kind of energy Army Aviation does and you are a part of that," Packett said.
The general praised the leaders in attendance and thanked them for their continued sacrifice during a period of sustained conflict.
"I couldn't be anymore proud to be your branch chief," Packett said to the Aviation leaders as he wrapped up his welcome remarks. "Your leadership is the single most important element that is going to carry us today and tomorrow."
(Mollie Miller writes for the Fort Rucker newspaper.)