FORT RUCKER, Ala. (January 31, 2013) -- Senior leaders from across Army Aviation came to Fort Rucker to talk about the future of Army Aviation and the changes it will bring.

The Aviation Senior Leaders Conference kicked off this year Tuesday at the Seneff Building and ran through today. The main themes of the conference were transition and change, according to Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.

"My major message to you and what you've really got to think about is the transition that we are making from an Army of execution, or an Army at war, to an Army of preparation," said Cone, "and how we adjust our investment portfolio to ensure that we are prepared for the future."

The shift from going to an Army of preparation will not be easy, but is a necessary change that the Army needs in the current "resource-constrained environment," he said.

"We very clearly need to balance both long-term readiness, the future of the force and leaders, and our near-term readiness," said the general. "We cannot walk away from near-term readiness -- that is what makes us a credible force."

Cone outlined some steps that the Army is going to take in order to meet its goals and spoke about where funds are needed the most, and the focus was on training and leadership.

"If I have one message that comes across here, it's that your legacy as a leader is not on the missions that you fly or the many accomplishments that you've had, but it's the people who are behind you," said Cone. "We've got to invest enough money in your current regiments, but at the same time we cannot walk away from Army institutions; institutions like this very school and center that builds Aviators, not for today, but for tomorrow -- for the long term."

"This means thinking about things like modernization, and developing leaders who are balanced and better at the tactical task at hand," he continued. "The Army's purpose is to make sure that the next guy out the door is ready to go."

Along with investing in leadership, Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, Fort Rucker and U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence commanding general, spoke to the audience about changes within Army Aviation that need to be made in sustainment.

"Sustainment is something that is looming large and one of the main issues is sustaining our fleet," he said. "We need good stewardship of our taxpayer dollars and we've absolutely got to look at the way we're doing business."

"We've got to build that into our future platforms," he said. "What are we doing with our flying hour dollars and what are we spending our flying hours on? This is something that we need to get our arms around."

Because of the transition from an Army of execution to an Army of preparation, Mangum said it's now Fort Rucker's responsibility to find out just how much Army Aviation the Army needs, and the difficulty is finding the "sweet spot."

He also spoke about current systems that the Army is using and the need to continue to use the systems Army Aviation has to push forward into the future rather than replacing them with entirely new systems.

"If we get better rotor technology, we can put that into our current fleet and our future fleet," Mangum said.

"In the future role of Aviation, we will have the dilemma of balancing between sustaining current capabilities and the ability to move forward," Cone added. "The questions are, how many brigades; what can we afford and how can we afford them?"

Other topics that were discussed throughout the week were manned and unmanned teaming, increased flight speed and range, increased payload and deployment capabilities, and commonality between the different military branches.

"Commonality would provide the ability to reduce the cost, standardization and component counts so that one component can fix any aircraft in the fleet," said Mangum. Commonality of components between branches is essential because it would improve training benefits and operational effectiveness, and global standardization would reduce development costs for multiple models of aircraft.

Mangum closed his opening remarks by asking all in attendance to collaborate with Fort Rucker to move the Aviation Branch into the future.

"We are in the process of updating our doctrine, so don't let that doctrine be written [only] here," he said. "You guys need to help -- challenge us -- we exist to support you and you exist to be relentlessly focused and dedicated to honoring that sacred trust to commanders and Soldiers on the ground."