Soldiers with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, inspect a Hellfire missile prior to loading on an OH-58 Kiowa at the National Training Center in California during Decisive Action Rotation 14-07 in May. (Photo by Spc. John Martin)
Published: October 10, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 10, 2014) -- The Army faces significant force structure reductions in an environment of budgetary constraints, and Army Aviation is feeling the impacts, particularly in the OH-58 community.
Army Aviation’s response to downsizing is the Aviation Restructure Initiative, a bold plan to divest legacy aircraft, modernize advanced aircraft and reorganize the force structure of the Active and Reserve Components.
“The Aviation Restructure Initiative provides our nation with the most lethal, agile and modernized Aviation Force in history. Aviation, like the entire Army, is getting smaller, but we will retrain and reshape the Aviation team, and modernize the total fleet to win in any operational environment,” said Maj. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general.
Significant changes as part of the reorganization include a reduction in combat Aviation brigades and the retirement of all aging single-engine helicopters, including the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.
Without ARI, sequestration would have resulted in the loss of five Aviation brigades from the Active and Reserve Components.
Under the ARI plan, the Active Component is slated to reduce from 13 Combat Aviation Brigades of various compositions to 10 standardized formations of modern aircraft, including additional Unmanned Aircraft Systems harvested from inactivating brigade combat team formations.
The Active Component will lose about 23 percent of its aircraft, to include all OH-58D Kiowa Warriors by Fiscal Year 2018, but will modernize the remaining fleet while investing in leap-ahead technologies, including the Improved Turbine Engine Program and Future Vertical Lift.
While numerous aircraft and equipment sets are affected by Army downsizing, the most challenging piece is the management of personnel in OH-58D Military Occupational Specialties. Although officers, warrant officers and enlisted Soldiers are impacted differently, the end result is a smaller Army Aviation force.
Lundy stressed the importance of taking care of Soldiers, and retaining the best and brightest from the OH-58D community.
“The vast majority served with honor and we need to honor that service,” Lundy said.
Transition plans have been customized for each grade structure and take into account the uniqueness of each skill set. Alternates were also identified to make sure all training opportunities are realized.
Aviation officers can continue to serve in many Aviation and branch immaterial positions regardless of aircraft qualifications. Officer performance, unit requirements and available training seats are the primary consideration when selecting an officer for an aircraft transition.
Officers who are selected for command or key developmental positions in flying units will be prioritized to transition into another aircraft (AH-64D/E, CH-47F or C-12).
Lundy is making transitions into other specialties a priority for highly qualified OH-58D warrant officers.
Recently, more than 324 OH-58D Aviators were selected as primary candidates for transitions into advanced aircraft.
Within the rapidly expanding field of UAS, Army Aviation estimates another 40 UAS reclassification opportunities available to top OH-58D performers.
Also, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment continues to seek applications from combat-experienced OH-58D pilots.
Enlisted Soldiers in MOS 15J and 15S will have reclassification opportunities available in AH-64D/E and UAS fields. Military Personnel message 14-223 addresses AH-64 opportunities, and all 15J and 15S Soldiers (Skill Level 10-40) who submit a reclassification request will be considered by a USAACE Order of Merit List panel.
Not all Soldiers will receive a transition, but selecting those who are best qualified is paramount, said Sgt. Maj. Brian O’Leary, Organization and Personnel Force Development sergeant major.
“Since we don’t have resources to reclass everyone, we must have a defined process that selects the best candidates for a transition,” O’Leary said.
In addition to the changes for conventional forces, the 15S positions within the 160th SOAR will be converted to 15T positions to provide additional capability and flexibility to meet worldwide demand.
With much of the transition training scheduled to begin in FY 15 and continue through FY 18, Army Aviation will continue to adapt and refine the plan.
“ARI is the best option for our nation to maintain lethality and agility in the future fight. We must do all we can to maintain the cavalry spirit, talent and combat experience of the OH-58D community as we move forward,” said Col. David Francis, USAACE deputy commander.
This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/135986/
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