Army Aviation's Return on RMD 802 Investment
Crutchfield, Anthony G., Army
In April 2009, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and GEN Martin Dempsey, commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), visited the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence (USAACE) and Fort Rucker, Ala., to assess the center's flight training program and the installation's supporting infrastructure. After touring Fort Rucker and meeting with USAACE and garrison leaders, flight students, instructor pilots (IPs) and aircraft maintenance personnel, the Secretary concluded his visit by meeting with national and local news correspondents at Cairns Army Airfield.
"I've recommended the President add an additional $500 million to increase the throughput of pilots and maintenance crews for our helicopters, for our rotary lift capability," Secretary Gates told the gathered reporters. "That will help us train more instructors, help with the infrastructure, probably get some additional airframes and - at the end of the day, what's most important - get us more well-trained pilots who can support our warfighters."
What resulted from Secretary Gates' visit was a fiscal commitment by the Department of Defense for more than $310 million to increase flight student throughput at Fort Rucker given the increased demands for Army Aviation capabilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Special operations aviation would receive additional funding separate from the $310 million earmarked for USAACE.
Nearly two years after his visit, the additional funding promised by Secretary Gates and authorized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Resource Management Decision (RMD) 802 has paid great dividends in increasing USAACE's capacity to generate relevant combat power for the operating force.
To meet the operating force's demand for trained and qualified Army aviators, Army Aviation was directed to incrementally increase the number of flight students from 1,200 in fiscal year (FY) 2009 to 1,463 in FY 2012 and 1,558 by FY 2015. Given the complexity of interrelated factors, however, any increase in student input required additional and corresponding increases in classroom seats, instructor pilots, training aircraft, hangar and ramp space across the five Fort Rucker base fields, and a greater refuel and aircraft maintenance capability. The increase in flight training operations meant more airspace congestion and an increased demand for air traffic services throughout the 32,300-square-mile local flying area and the center's 17 stage fields and 38 remote training sites.
Since 2009, USAACE committed more than $92 million for construction of maintenance facilities and additional classrooms at Fort Rucker. A majority of the funds went to hangar and maintenance facility renovation at the center's four base fields (Hanchey, Cairns, Shell and Knox Army Airfields), hi addition, funding allowed the center to renovate existing classrooms, bringing them up to TRADOCs Classroom XXI standards, which provide a state-of-the-art environment that includes the latest technology to assist in making training more effective and efficient.
One of the greatest resource challenges facing USAACE was the number of available instructor pilots. Although the 110th Aviation Brigade remains critically short of instructor pilots with military staffing at 74 percent, RMD 802 funding allowed for the hiring of 56 additional civilian contract IPs. With the support of the Army National Guard Bureau, USAACE used the Contingency Operation for Active Duty Operational Support (CO-ADOS) to bring in additional volunteer IPs from the Army National Guard (ARNG) to augment the flight training program. Under CO-ADOS, reserve component soldiers volunteer for active duty assignments for up to three years to support various training requirements pursuant to Title 10 authority. To date, 32 National Guard IPs from 20 states have volunteered for the program and will remain at Fort Rucker for at least 24 months pursuant to available funding. …