A Soldier who has been an integral part of the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade since the unit stood up at Fort Riley six years ago has been selected to lead Army Aviation to even greater heights as the branch's new senior noncommissioned officer.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Thomson was chosen to succeed Command Sgt. Maj. Tod Glidewell as the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Aviation Branch. Thomson is the first "Big Red One" command sergeant major to be selected for the position.

"I think this is a great opportunity to make a big difference (in Army Aviation)," Thomson said last week. "After 25 years in the Army, all of it in aviation, I feel like I have a lot to contribute to the branch."

As the new USAACE/Aviation Branch command sergeant major, Thomson will be responsible for the approximately 70,000 Soldiers assigned to the branch. According to Glidewell, Thomson's primary focus will be "advising (Maj. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield) on all enlisted matters and the daily training conducted at Fort Rucker, Ala., Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and Fort Eustis, Va."

Thomson has gotten plenty of practice advising on all matters related to aviation training since arriving at Fort Riley May 20, 2006. One of the first dozen or so aviation Soldiers to come to the Flint Hills to prepare the post for the reintroduction of the 1st Inf. Div. aviation brigade, Thomson said the challenges were many in the days before the brigade officially uncased its colors.

"It was very challenging because facilities weren't ready for a CAB of our size, there wasn't a pool of people to pull from … and barracks space wasn't really available so our Soldiers were moved around a lot," he said. "Eventually, though, it all came together."

Initially assigned as the command sergeant major of the 601st Aviation Support Battalion, Thomson assumed the brigade's senior enlisted spot on Sept. 4, 2009, following the CAB's 15 month deployment to Iraq. From his new spot at the brigade's headquarters, Thomson said he watched his aviation Soldiers step to the plate to prepare for another trip to Iraq after having been home for just more than one year.

"We went out as one brigade to replace four," Thomson said of the CAB's 2010-2011 deployment. "These young Soldiers just pulled it together and totally impressed and amazed me."

Although many things have happened during the past six years that have made Thomson very proud, it is the Demon Brigade Soldiers' professionalism and commitment to excellence that impresses him the most. It is the times when he has watched each of his Soldiers excel that he considers his "best BRO moments."

"What I have seen over these six years is a bunch of men and women who were sent here to do a very difficult mission and, every time they were asked, these young Soldiers came together and did things they wouldn't normally do," Thomson said. "They have been a privilege to watch."

Glidewell said there are many things that make Thomson a good choice to succeed him at Fort Rucker like a resume that includes recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and a strong commitment to nurturing the Army family he shares with his wife Jennifer.

"The commanding general made the selection but, in my opinion, he couldn't have picked a better guy," he said. "(Thomson) possesses the insight and strategic vision we need to take the branch into the future."

Reflecting on the past six years he has spent with the 1st Inf. Div., Thomson he will always consider his time at Fort Riley one of the most rewarding assignments of his career.

"While I have a choice of patches to wear on my right shoulder, I think I will wear (the 1st Inf. Div.) patch the most often," he said. "I can't overstate how proud I have been to walk in the footsteps of my Big Red One brothers."

Thomson officially transferred his 1st CAB responsibilities to interim Command Sgt. Maj. Don Wright Feb. 16 and will assume the duties of his new job during a ceremony March 27 at Fort Rucker.