Association endorses congressional efforts
The aviation community stands behind the efforts of the Congressional Aviation Caucus as it works to educate congressional leaders and their staff members on the needs and future of Army aviation.
During Thursday’s awards luncheon sponsored by the Tennessee Valley chapter of the Army Aviation Association of America as part of the 39th annual Joseph P. Cribbins Aviation Product Symposium at the Von Braun Center, AAAA’s vice president publicly endorsed the work being done by the Congressional Aviation Caucus, which was established and is chaired by Rep. Mo Brooks.
“It is one of the most active caucuses in Congress,” said AAAA vice president retired Brig. Gen. Howard Yellen.
“Its purpose is to raise awareness of aviation and to raise aviation issues to Congress. Its focus is championing the efforts of Army aviation, and taking care of Soldiers and their families.”
The aviation caucus, which has 46 members, started during the 112th session of Congress. The caucus first met in December 2011 with leaders from AAAA and the Army Helicopter Society. Other meetings have included briefings by aviation industry leaders, the Congressional Research Service, the 160th Night Stalkers and the Army “Aviation Six-Pack,” which consists of the Program Executive Office for Aviation; the commanding generals of the Aviation and Missile Command, the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, and the Special Operations Aviation Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.; the director of Army aviation at the Pentagon; and the associate director of the Army Aviation Technical Directorate at Fort Eustis, Va.
With the beginning of the 113th session of Congress, the aviation caucus met Feb. 5 to gain more aviation insight from members of the Aviation Six-Pack.
“That was our largest event so far,” said Stephen Davis, who serves as Brooks’ security adviser. Davis spoke to the AAAA members earlier in the day’s program.
“We are alternating between Army industry and Army government presentations to ensure we give a single unified voice to Army aviation on the hill. We want to educate members of Congress about aviation and aviation issues, and we want to bring support to the Army aviation sector.”
Besides hearing from senior aviation leaders about the role Army aviation has being the “first in and the last out,” Yellen said the caucus’ first meeting of the congressional session also reviewed the potential for defense budget cuts, set to take effect March 1.
“The numbers are staggering,” Yellen said. “There will be $18 billion in cuts in operations and maintenance, and 215,000 Department of the Army furloughs.”
He said 43 percent of the Army budget used to support deployed operations will not be cut. That leaves 57 percent of the Army budget to “absorb that $18 billion in cuts,” adding that significant cuts will be made in post-deployment maintenance, in the cancellation of new equipment orders and in the reduction in Army depot operations and employees.
Yellen said congressional leaders will have to “work aggressively to avert these dramatic cuts.”
Plans are continuing to go forward for AAAA’s annual professional forum and exposition, set for April 10-13 in Fort Worth, Texas, even though travel to the event by Army representatives has been significantly cut. Yellen said Army leaders will still attend along with Soldiers from the area’s military population, and forecasts indicate it will be the third largest conference in AAAA history.
In other AAAA news, Yellen said there are 72 AAAA chapters in 37 states and four overseas locations, with more than 20,000 members worldwide. The association has 300 corporate members.
In 2012, the association provided $364,000 in scholarships to 236 college-bound students. More than 700 Soldiers received AAAA awards and about 400 Order of St. Michael awards were presented.
During the luncheon program, AAAA presented Army aviator veteran Norb Patla with the prestigious Gold St. Michael. SigmaTech Inc. of Huntsville received the AAAA Army Aviation Materiel Readiness Award for Contribution by a Small Business and CH-47 field service representative Michael Labelle of Boeing in Huntsville received the AAAA Army Aviation Materiel Award for Contribution by an Individual Member of Industry. Other awards were presented to the Gray Eagle Field Services Teams of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the Army Fleet Support at Fort Rucker and D Troop, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade.