Australian Army Aviation works in a complex environment with a fragmented force generation cycle that impacts training force flow in order to achieve certification requirements. Army Aviation’s ability to meet force generation outputs is further compounded by the currency requirements associated with flying categories. To achieve and maintain currency requirements, Army Aviation Units are required to operate constantly both by day and night. Further complexity is experienced by Army Aviation Units supporting both Special Operations Command and Forces Command. Laterally, Aviation Regiments are to ensure that the all-Corps soldier skills are maintained at a high standard whilst incorporating a myriad of courses such as professional, combat shooting and the Army Combative Suite. All training requirements need to be achieved whilst still conducting normal flying operations. The directed rate of effort (ROE) is generated as the necessary amount of hours that are required to meet suitable flying standards. By achieving ROE we provide a safer environment through ensuring our aircrew maintain currencies and gain greater experience with every hour flown. This is achieved through clear and concise guidance from the Commanding Officer, emphasis on a ‘Team of Teams’ approach, professional military education, a mentoring program and a strong adherence to Army’s Core Values.
A Complex Workforce
Army Aviation has a multifaceted workforce that consists of 30 different soldier employment categories. These diverse qualifications come together to ensure specific aircraft type are safe and reliable for aircrew to operate. The complexities for the career management of such a varied workforce is one of the greatest challenges for a senior soldier within the Army Aviation Corps. Significant trust is placed in Squadron Sergeants Major (SSMs) to track and champion soldiers’ career progression. I personally held quarterly S7 synchronisation conferences where attendance on the next 12 months of courses is mapped out. The career management of soldiers consumes a substantial amount of time and requires close relationships between the SSM and S7. This ensured soldiers gained the required qualifications to maintain trade proficiency and promoted on merit.
Clear and Concise Guidance
Aviation Units require intricate intra-unit collaboration to achieve daily flying operations. To put this into perspective, it takes approximately 30 to 40 hours of enabler support, across up to 20 different trades, to generate one hour of flying time. In addition, a 30 minute delay in a sortie can result in a significant ripple effect that may impact an entire week’s flying program. Due to the many enablers and significant risk, the commander needs to provide clear, concise guidance. Army Aviation uses orders like any other military unit; what differs is how that information is tracked. The capability uses several different applications and software to analyse, comprehend and provide situational awareness of tasking requirements. These modes of task tracking allow clear and concise feedback and are easily accessible to all ranks and personnel within the Unit.
Due to the follow-on effect associated with changing sorties, often flying programs are inflexible in their design, which promotes the necessity for a disciplined Battle Rhythm. The competitiveness for assets requires command to clearly define priorities to mitigate stresses associated with unserviceable aircraft.
Team of Teams
Teamwork is a core Army Value. At the end of the day, we are all here to support the soldier. To achieve outcomes teams must work as part of a larger team. A unified purpose and concentrated effort enables teams to deliver capability at the right place at the right time. I found all soldiers thrived off information; from the Private soldier in the Q store, to the RPS storeman and the transport driver, all felt valued when they understood the purpose and when their contributions were acknowledged. The after action review process was a key aspect in this cycle to seek feedback that informed improved methods and plans.
PME and Mentoring
Army has always applied a teaching approach with soldiers and recently a shift to educating soldiers has deepened this effort. One of the ways I found to educate was to involve former RSM-A WO Dave Ashley and WO Kev Woods, who both gave brilliant presentations to the Regiment. Importantly, after the presentations SSMs ran Squadron discussions to tease out the lessons. This proved to be very successful as the open and frank responses from all ranks empowered educated, sensible discussion. These sort of discussion groups also emphasised that a mentoring environment was growing. This was a supporting outcome I strove to achieve as I believe mentoring from senior to junior soldiers had lapsed over the past decade. Consequently, I made it my responsibility to plan activities and schedule them at a time where maximum participation was possible.
Adherence to Army’s Core Values
Army’s Core Values were always the centre of gravity for whatever the Regiment did. The constant message that Army’s Values underpin all our actions in the ethical execution of warfare and service to our nation was reinforced regularly. As such, Army’s Values were constantly bedded into daily tasks to ensure purpose resonated with everyone. In addition to the Values, the Regiment had a strong messages of look after your mates, display moral courage, be part of a team of teams and be brilliant at the basic. I found constant reinforcement of these messages, until leaders were sick of hearing me saying them, allowed the culture to reflect these Values to become contagious.
Aviation units are no different to other military units and, like others, our tasking is designed to deliver a capability for the Australian Defence Force. A significant stress on the Regiment is the requirement to meet our training throughput whilst being required to support planned and unplanned tasks for Army and Government. The ever present High Risk Weather Season often creates the need to support domestic and international humanitarian and disaster relief operations, all the while maintaining operational capability. This creates difficulties when monitoring the tempo and broader training requirements.
All Regiments are different and require specific platform expertise but each unit must stay focused to deliver the required outcomes. Tasking comes from our Formations Headquarters and from the supported units; therefore, involvement in the planning process needs to be early. It is Aviation’s responsibility to let the Commander on the ground know what is achievable and what is not, which will allows us to provide the right effect at the right place at the right time.
About the author: Warrant Officer Class One Hangan was recently the Regimental Sergeant Major of 5th Aviation Regiment, and prior to that was the Regimental Sergeant Major of 6th Aviation Regiment. He is currently an instructor at WONCO-A, Canungra.