By Kellyn D. Ritter
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the number of Soldiers in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) has increased by approximately 1,000. At the same time, the AH/MH-6M Little Bird, MH-47G Chinook, and MH-60M Black Hawk were or are being fielded. Simultaneously, the 160th is running its own schoolhouse. These multiple activities, all while the Army has been at war, have stressed the regiment—stress that the new U.S. Army Special Operations Command-Provisional (ARSOAC) hopes to alleviate.
ARSOAC was officially activated March 25. Its Commanding General is BG Kevin W. Mangum, former Deputy Commanding General-Center, U.S. Division-Center.
ARSOAC will manage the complex enterprise of aviation units and operations, institutional training, system integration and acquisition, and maintenance and sustainment functions, Mangum said. It will also provide oversight to ensure standardization and safety of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial systems.
Mangum spoke about the mission, vision, and functions of the new command at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Institute of Land Warfare’s Army Aviation Symposium and Exposition Jan. 13, 2011, at National Harbor, MD.
ARSOAC is part of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), overseen by the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and has a dual role in Army special operations. It mans, trains, equips, and resources units to provide worldwide aviation support to Special Operations Forces (SOF) and serves as the USASOC Aviation Staff proponent, said Mangum.
“Taking the functions off the 160th—their own training battalion, their acquisition cell, and their programming—will free that commander to have a more relevant role for the battlefield. That is our goal and our hope,” he said.
Mangum said ARSOAC is “going to deal with all things aviation.” It will provide USASOC with a command and staff capability for USASOC aviation and will facilitate collaboration with the Army and USSOCOM on broader aviation issues.
“It’s a resourcing headquarters with a hiring role, both as a component command within USASOC as well as the staff proponent for aviation within USASOC,” he said. “Across the USASOC and aviation enterprise, we have a little bit of everything. We have fixed-wing, rotary-wing … We will be the single portal of entry for those issues for the entire aviation piece.”
ARSOAC is a provisional command for about a year, giving the command staff time to establish the conditions and resources for success. “As we build this headquarters, let’s get it right. Let’s not get it fast,” said Mangum. The goal is to “come out of the starting box with the right goals, missions, and functions.”
In the Army Force Generation cycle, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) is divided into three rotations: maintenance, training, and modernization. These are three distinct pieces that compete with one another, Mangum said.
Army aviation and USASOC are collaborative, functionally relying on each other. Mangum said that more than half of the Combat Aviation Brigade effort supports SOF. Meanwhile, SOF relies on Army aviation to provide expert Soldiers to grow and sustain Army aviation and to generate combat power.
MG Anthony G. Crutchfield, Chief of the Army Aviation Branch and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, AL, asked Mangum to join the Army Aviation Enterprise Executive Council. “It is an opportunity to collaborate, be transparent, and communicate better what our requirements are to the Army and also share with the Army what we’re doing and learn from Army aviation what it’s doing,” Mangum said. The goal is to have greater collaboration with the Army aviation enterprise, to have mutual support to achieve capabilities and readiness at best value.
Mangum’s presentation is available at http://www.crprogroup.com/2011%20AVIATION%20PRESENTATIONS/Thurs/PM/BG%20Kevin%20Mangum.pdf.
- KELLYN D. RITTER provides contract support to the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center through BRTRC Strategy and Communications Group. She holds a B.A. in English from Dickinson College.