Army Aviation leadership examines sustainment model with Navy

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Army photograph by Traci Boutwell

AMCOM Commander, Maj. Gen. Doug Gabram, and other AMCOM senior leaders meet with senior leaders from the Naval Air Systems Command and Maj. Gen. Tim Gowan, Deputy Commanding General for Army Futures Command regarding AMCOM’s best practices for Aviation sustainment.

Senior leaders from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command met with the senior leaders from the Naval Air Systems Command, Jan. 8, to discuss the Army Aviation sustainable materiel readiness structure and compare it to the Navy’s structure.

“The Navy is looking at our best practices and asking how they can adopt and incorporate some of those practices,” explained Col. Shawn Prickett, AMCOM Chief of Staff. “They do not have a command that equates to what AMCOM does, so they want to see how we do business.”

The NAVAIR personnel were accompanied by Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowan, Deputy Commanding General for Army Futures Command, who orchestrated the visit.

“We look at your [operational aircraft] rates and ask ‘How are you organized to achieve these rates?’ What are your best practices that we can capture?” Gowan asked on behalf of his Navy counterparts.

In response, AMCOM Commander, Maj. Gen. Doug Gabram attributed AMCOM’s success in keeping the Army Aviation fleet fully mission capable to several factors, including communication and cooperation amongst the leaders of the Army Aviation Enterprise, AMCOM’s oversight of maintenance at all levels from the unit to the depot, logistics assistance representatives and identifying the top 10 readiness drivers for each aircraft.

Gabram described what is known as the Six Pack, the six leaders in Army Aviation who talk weekly to discuss problems, operations, fielding of aircraft, maintenance and any findings. In addition to Gabram, the other members of the Six Pack are:

Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, Commanding General, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker;
Brig. Gen. David J. Francis, Director of army Aviation in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff (G3/5/7) Army, the Pentagon;
Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Todd, Program Executive Officer, Aviation, Redstone Arsenal, Ala.;
Brig. Gen. Allan M. Pepin, Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.;
John Shipley, the director of the Army Integration Directorate, Fort Eustis, Va.

Yet another communication forum is the monthly meetings Gabram holds with each of the three original Aviation equipment manufacturers. Gabram meets with each OEM to discuss supply availability of aircraft parts.

Gabram also touted the work of maintenance teams, from the units to Corpus Christi Army Depot.

“We have two crew chiefs per aircraft who do preventive maintenance at the unit. That really helps with our [operations tempo]” Gabram explained. We also have depot maintenance teams that go out to the units.”

Gabram also spoke of the role AMCOM’s Branch Aviation Maintenance Officer, Chief Warrant 5 Mike Cavaco, plays in communicating with the maintainers in the field. “He has monthly teleconferences with all of the maintenance officers, so he is sharing information and learning first-hand about any problems a unit may be having.

“And, we have maintenance – reset – at the depots where they tear apart the aircraft bolt-by-bolt,” Gabram said. “That extends the life of the aircraft about 20 years”

In addition, AMCOM supports reset. Reset is a one-time post-deployment inspection and repair required to return aircraft to pre-deployment fully mission capable condition. Reset includes an in-depth cleaning, inspection and repair of both dynamic components and the aircraft structure.

Gabram also explained to the NAVAIR senior leaders about the invaluable work of the AMCOM Logistics Assistance Representatives (LARs).

“Our LARs are liaison officers from AMCOM who are embedded with units across the globe. They are technical experts who can reach back to us, so we have a comprehensive sight picture,” Gabram explained. “We have 145 LARs. We always know what’s going on with the aircraft at the units because the senior LAR for each region reports in to us. All of the item managers at AMCOM Logistics Center are looking at the same sight picture so they can order parts accordingly.”

Another system that AMCOM has implemented that has improved readiness was identifying the top 10 readiness drivers for each aircraft. A readiness driver is a critical repair part that will deadline a system and is essential to equipment operation. AMCOM defines sufficient stock to be three times the average monthly demand with no backorders over 30 days. Identifying and stocking the readiness drivers are a means of prioritizing how to go after the goal of supply availability. One of the major initiatives in building supply availability is to identify the top 10 readiness drivers for the aviation platforms.

“We manage a total of 3,800 parts, but we’ve identified those parts – the readiness drivers – that we need to keep the aircraft flying,” Gabram explained. “Why do we need strategic depth? There are a host of reasons, one of which is war. If we go to war, we’re not going to lose because we don’t have enough of the parts we need.”

At the end of the engagement, the NAVAIR leaders took away a much clearer understanding of the Army’s sustainment programs and processes and a commitment from Gabram that the AMCOM team would be glad to show the NAVAIR team what is working for Army Aviation.

“There is no one way to do things, but our goal is to keep the fleet flying,” Gabram said. “[AMCOM is] involved at all levels. We provide tech support, manuals, safety messages that go out. We have a great relationship with our partners and we’re knocking down targets together.”