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Spotlight On Aviation Technology For Ground Support

Oct 5, 2009

By Kari Hawkins, USAG Redstone

The Army's aviation maintenance equipment is only as good as the Soldiers who use it to repair and maintain helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

So, it's not surprising that a four-day conference - the Aviation Ground Support Equipment User Conference - included plenty of opportunities for Soldiers to provide feedback on the aviation ground equipment they use in the field, and to learn about new and improved equipment designed to make their job more efficient and responsive in support of aviation missions in both peaceful and wartime environments.

The conference, hosted by the product management office of Aviation Ground Support Equipment, brought about 300 Soldiers and Army civilians together with 50 vendors to the Von Braun Center Sept. 20-24 to discuss everything from maintenance software systems to battle damage assessment repair kits. The conference included presentations by PM AGSE and various other product management and project management offices related to AGSE.

"PM AGSE is listening to what the Soldiers need," said Lt. Col. Russ Wygal, the AGSE product manager. "We're trying to be responsive to what the Soldiers need in the field. We want them to know that the input and feedback we've gotten from them in the past is actually benefitting them now in the products we are providing.

"We listen. We take that information and we implement it to support the Soldier. We are all about making sure we support the Soldiers who are supporting aviation maintenance, and we are doing that with the right tools at the right time at the right place."

This was the first full-scale AGSE conference that included its entire scope of products. Last year, in Huntsville, PM AGSE hosted a tool conference.

"We expanded the conference this year to increase the scope for users," Wygal said. "This PM was established only a few years back. We want to grow and improve on this every year."

PM AGSE is based in Huntsville, with offices off post, and reports to the Project Manager for Aviation Systems, Program Executive Office for Aviation. PM AGSE products include the Army's Modified Aviation Ground Power Unit, Tool Store "Balad," Aircraft Cleaning and De-Icing System, Unit Maintenance Aerial Recovery Kit, Digital Aircraft Weight Scale and Battle Damage Assessment Repair Kit. It provides a Nondestructive Testing Center of Excellence.

Soldiers attending the conference represented field units and combat aviation brigades from throughout the U.S. as well as Germany and Hawaii. The "varied cross section of aviation maintainers and crew chiefs supporting the entire Army aviation fleet" is a source of information for program management, said Wygal, an Army aviator who has experience flying multiple platforms and whose career has included working with aviation maintenance operations.

"Some of our sessions were specifically designed to solicit feedback from Soldiers on specific programs," he said. "They have provided us with valuable feedback. We are also showing them new products for the field, such as the Towing System Electric Shop Set. This conference allows them to see it and talk about it and provide feedback on how they like the current equipment. It's about bringing their knowledge from different areas together so that we can provide better products to support Soldiers."

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