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Army Aviation within Forces Command

General David A. Bramlett
Major Larry Rood


Thanks to Army Aviation for the chance to bring the readership up-to-date on Aviation in FORSCOM. I would like to introduce this article with an illustrative anecdote about Army Aviation. Early in 1966 as a young First Lieutenant, I served as the aide-de-camp to then Brigadier General Glenn D. Walker, ADC(O), of the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam. General Walker, a great infantryman and veteran of WW II (wounded at Aachen), is a leader of extraordinary experience. After several weeks of operations, he made a declarative comment that surprised all of us. After watching LTC Bob Shoemaker's 1-9th Air Cavalry Squadron perform in numerous circumstances, he stated the Air Cavalry Troop/Squadron is the most impressive and important addition to the Army force structure he has seen in this career. He proceeded to summarize its strengths of flexibility, firepower, inherent combined arms capabilities, and potential for growth. The more I reflect on these comments, over 30 years ago, the more I have come to apply them to the potential we find in Army Aviation. We in FORSCOM are proud to be a part of its future.


Forces Command (FORSCOM) is a major Army command and the Army Component of U.S. Atlantic Command. We train, mobilize, deploy, and sustain combat ready forces capable of operating in a joint and combined environment to meet worldwide operational commitments. We are the largest of the U.S. Army's Major Commands, comprised of 761,000 Active, Army Reserve, and when federalized Army National Guard soldiers. There are 18,000 Department of the Army civilian employees in FORSCOM. FORSCOM executes command and control for two thirds of the Army's combat forces. Army Aviation is a significant asset within this force. FORSCOM aviation assets provide the Warfighting CINCs with highly flexible maneuver forces capable of operating in the third dimension of the battlefield as part of the combined arms team.

FORSCOM Army aviation organizations continue to evolve with changing military doctrine and the demands of contingency operations. Our Aviation units are a capabilities based force prepared to support the full spectrum of operations, including power projection requirements, operations other than war, and joint and combined operations.


The Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI) has produced significant aviation force structure changes. The initiative improves the effectiveness of the aviation community while remaining within constraints of personnel and fiscal guidance. ARI improves on the Army of Excellence (AOE) structure, reduces logistic requirements, drives down costs, and retires old aircraft while optimizing available resources. This restructure corrects the AOE organizational deficiencies for maintenance and headquarters personnel. We now have homogeneous units with a greater density of primary aircraft. Placing one type of aircraft in a battalion structure reduces costs and decreases the number of personnel required to maintain the fleet.

Of equal importance to ARI is the agreement developed between the active and reserve components known as "Aviation Migration." This historic concept moves the majority of US Army Reserve (USAR) units to the Army National Guard (ARNG). Additionally, a large portion of the cargo helicopter and fixed wing fleet moved from the Army's Active Component (AC) to the ARNG. The USAR organized its remaining aviation assets into functional units under one Theater Aviation Brigade with 32 fixed wing aircraft (C12R) in two fixed wing battalions, 48 CH-47s in one medium lift battalion, one 24 ship AH-64 attack battalion, one 24 ship AH-64 cavalry squadron, and one Aviation Intermediate Maintenance company. Thus, FORSCOM will reduce its approximately 4200 aircraft eventually to about 3800 by the end of FY97.

The FORSCOM aviation units are aligned with each of the corps based in the Continental United States. Each corps is organized with a Corps Aviation Brigade in addition to the organic divisional aviation assets. The mix of AC and RC aviation units vary with each brigade. The XVIII Airborne Corps Aviation Brigade, 18th Aviation Brigade, is resourced with two Aviation Groups, 159th Avn Group (Lift) and the 229th Avn Group (Attack). The 159th Avn Group is composed of one general support aviation battalion, one assault helicopter battalion, one light utility helicopter battalion, and one medium lift helicopter battalion from the ARNG. In addition, the Group has an AC command aviation battalion and an air traffic service battalion. The second group, 229th Avn Group, is composed of one ARNG and two AC attack battalions. An AC aviation intermediate maintenance battalion supports the Corps aviation brigade. This represents a mix of 51 percent AC and 49 percent ARNG aviation. Both AC and RC aviation units assigned to the Corps stand ready to execute their power projection requirement in support of worldwide contingencies.

The III Corps Aviation Brigade, 6th Aviation Brigade, consists of the 63d Avn Group (Lift) and the 385th Avn Group (Attack). The 63d Avn Group (Lift) is composed of one command aviation battalion, one general support aviation battalion, one assault helicopter battalion, one light utility helicopter battalion, and one air traffic service battalion from the ARNG. The 385th Avn Group (Attack) has two AC attack battalions (forward deployed to Korea), and one USAR attack battalion. The Corps aviation brigade is supported by one aviation intermediate maintenance battalion from the ARNG. The AC and RC aviation mix is 4 percent AC, 77 percent ARNG, and 19 percent USAR.

The I Corps Aviation Brigade, 66th Aviation Brigade, is structured like the other corps. The aviation groups assigned to the brigade are the 185th Avn Group (Lift) and the 211th Avn Group (Attack). Within the groups all battalions are from the ARNG. There are six AC companies within the groups. The groups are composed of 94 percent ARNG and 6 percent AC aviation units.

FORSCOM has implemented 100% of the AC force structure changes required by ARI and will complete the RC force structure changes in FY98. FORSCOM aviation is a Total Force postured for the 21st Century.


The FORSCOM aviation units execute a training strategy that supports worldwide joint and combined aviation force requirements. It emphasizes application of doctrine and emerging technologies, incorporating simulation, home station training, Combat Training Center (CTC) experience, and joint exercises. Home station training builds and sustains warfighting skills, such as gunnery, platoon & company lanes training, and staff & leader development. Aviation units maintain their readiness using collective training events such as Field Training Exercises and Command Post Exercises. Rotating units through the training program of the 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat), which focuses on an instrumented training exercise with skilled observer/controllers enhances home station training. Units are given the opportunity to participate in the most challenging training opportunity available when they conduct a training exercise at the CTCs. Resourcing the annual training program in FY97 will require FORSCOM to utilize approximately 212,000 flight hours at a cost of $368 million.

The 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat) performs a vital training function for Army AC and RC aviation, as well as for some allied nations. Its mission is to support the fielding and equipping of all attack and air cavalry units and to conduct initial and sustainment collective training. Fort Hood, Texas, provides excellent range, training area, and facility support. The brigade has facilitated the fielding and training of 31 AH-64A and 8 OH-58D units. Future tasks include fielding and training of 3 additional OH-58D units and 25 AH-64D "Longbow" battalions, as well as continued support associated with foreign military sales.

In 1996 FORSCOM deployed both divisional attack and cavalry aviation units in support of CTC exercises. The first RC AH-64 Attack Battalion to participate in a CTC exercise will be the

1-211th Attack Battalion from the Utah ARNG. The battalion will deploy as part of the aviation task force supporting the 3d Bde, 2d ID(M) National Training Center (NTC) rotation in June 1997.

During CTC rotations, aviation units exercise their full range of Mission Essential Tasks in a tough realistic training environment. On the average, FORSCOM aviation units fly 400-600 hours per rotation. Both the Joint Readiness Training Center and the National Training Center rotations are critical training events that allow aviation commanders to hone aviation warfighting skills as well as assess their unit readiness.

Home station training and participation in CTC rotations prepare FORSCOM aviation units for participation in joint military operations such as Operation PRIME CHANCE. This operation supported U.S. Navy forces which protected shipping in the Persian Gulf. As a result of the success of this joint operation, we now maintain the 4-2d Cavalry Squadron as a maritime capable force of OH-58Ds trained to operate from the decks of U.S. Navy ships. This force represents a major power projection capability.


Aviation force downsizing, high mission OPTEMPO, and collective training requirements provide unit commanders with numerous challenges. Commanders receive assistance from the FORSCOM ARMS Team to make assessments of their management programs and capability to conduct their wartime mission. The ARMS inspection focuses on enhancing safety, readiness, and standardization. It is a critical measurement tool for the chain-of-command. Recently the Continental United States Army's (CONUSA) ARMS missions were consolidated at FORSCOM headquarters as a tri-component organization within the DCSOPS Aviation Division. The tri-component ARMS teams assist all FORSCOM AC and RC aviation units. The team members also support other MACOM ARMS teams and routinely inspect FORSCOM AC units deployed OCONUS.


FORSCOM Aviation units supported numerous domestic and foreign operations in FY96. Recent aviation mission support highlights include:

  • Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta during which elements of the Georgia ARNG and the 2-3d Avn Regt from Fort Stewart, Georgia committed 33 helicopters. Army Aviators flew over 300 missions in support of law enforcement and security operations.
  • Disaster relief support responding to the destruction caused by Hurricane Marylyn in the Virgin Islands, 14 September to 25 October 1995. The 1-159th Avn Regt from Fort Bragg, North Carolina flew over 200 hours transporting cargo, conducting reconnaissance missions, and providing transportation for senior officials, all of which helped to restore the infrastructure of the islands.
  • Support to Counterdrug Task Forces. FORSCOM supports the counterdrug war with both AC & RC aviation. The ARNG has established numerous Reconnaissance and Interdiction Detachments that provide continuous support to local and federal law enforcement counterdrug operations. The AC deploys units for specific time periods in support counterdrug missions. In recent deployments, the 1-82d Avn Regt and 3-229th Avn Regt from Fort Bragg, North Carolina conducted vital reconnaissance and air movement of law enforcement officials along the U.S.-Mexican border and the 2-3d Avn Regt from Fort Stewart, Georgia provided similar support to counterdrug operations in the Caribbean. In FY96 AC aviation units expended 2700 flight hours in support of counterdrug missions.
  • Support of fire fighting efforts. In the Western U.S., units from the Army National Guard and US Army Reserve, primarily from A Company 6-158th Avn Regt (USAR), flew over 1000 hours performing missions such as search and rescue, logistical support, air movement of personnel, and water bucket missions.
  • Support of the United Nations Task Force in Haiti. A Company 6-158th Avn Regt (USAR) from Everett, Washington provided CH-47 support and D Company 2-238th Avn Regt (ARNG) from Grand Ledge, Michigan provided UH-1H support. The units executed daily support and service operations.

FORSCOM Aviation's responsiveness and flexibility have played a key factor in the success of these and many other diverse operations. FORSCOM stands ready to deploy aviation assets world wide.


As FORSCOM looks toward the 21st Century, an evolution in doctrine and technology will require Aviation soldiers and their units to evolve. FORSCOM is committed to the Army's Advanced Warfighting Experiment. The 4th Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, is helping to develop future tactics, techniques, and procedures and to assist with determining the future force structure of Army Aviation. The Aviation structure being tested in the Advanced Warfighting Experiment organizes attack, lift, and C2 aircraft into a single combined arms aviation package capable of supporting a full spectrum of operations. The experiment marks the first major collective training event in which AH-64D Longbow Apaches will be employed in a force-on-force role. Digitization will allow instantaneous situational awareness from the cockpit of all aircraft participating in the exercise. Information gathered on the battlefield will be transmitted to the Command and Control headquarters and analyzed at a speed unlike what we have heretofore experienced.


We are preserving the time tested priorities of training, leadership development, and high-quality personnel. As FORSCOM moves to the 21st Century, we will continue to modernize, train, and equip the aviation force to meet the full spectrum of domestic and military contingency requirements of our nation.


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