• Faces of the Force

    Template for Faces of the Force

    Top-Notch staff fuels success for Apache program


    By Susan L. Follett


    FOTF: What do you do in the Army? Why is it important?

    HAGER: I am the project manager for the Apache, the world’s premier attack helicopter. I’m responsible for the development, production, fielding and sustainment of the entire aircraft system, for the existing aircraft as well as the new platform. We currently have 791 Apaches in our fleet. The Soldiers who fly and maintain these helicopters are constantly in harm’s way, and our work is important because it provides them with the safest and most reliable combat operation platform.

    I’ve been in this position for six months, but I’ve been in this field for awhile. Previously, I was director of modifications for the Utility Helicopters PMO here at Redstone Arsenal, and I was the product director for Foreign Military Sales for the Program Executive Officer Aviation (PEO Aviation). I also worked as the Apache Block III product manager, where I was involved in designing the upgraded Apache (AH-64E) that we’re now fielding.

    FOTF: What’s the biggest challenge you face?

    HAGER: The combat units that fly the Apache have a very high operational tempo, which translates into a lot of wear and tear on the aircraft and a lot of repairs and maintenance. Additionally, there are a lot of units who are training to fly this aircraft, and they too put a lot of hours on the plane. For us, the challenge is making sure that we have the components and knowledge to keep the aircraft operational to ensure mission success.

    FOTF: How do you overcome that challenge?

    HAGER: We overcome this particular challenge with our exceptional project office personnel or “staff”. The amount of knowledge that our personnel possess is impressive, and their work ethic and their technical expertise keep this office running. I know that for any challenge that comes up — a business issue, a logistics matter, any developmental concerns, a contracting question — we have the people on staff who can handle it.

    We have top-notch logistics and sustainment personnel who provide in-depth knowledge of the aircraft, as well as fleet management personnel who can get equipment and planes to where they need to be. I can count on them to bring to my attention to the big issues, and they keep me apprised of what’s going on. It’s an honor to work with them as we keep the program running.

    In addition to serving as Project Manager for the Apache Attack Helicopter PMO, Col. Hager also served as the Apache Block III product manager, designing the upgraded Apache (AH-64E) that’s shown here and currently being fielded.

    FOTF: How does the new Apache differ from previous models?

    HAGER: It’s the first Apache in 30 years to feature a new main transmission, and its engine has incredibly greater horsepower than in the past. It also features composite main rotor blades, and the end result of all those changes is an aircraft that can carry more weight at higher altitudes and operate in higher temperatures. It also includes a new onboard mission processor (computer) system designed with open source architecture, making it easier to add new hardware and software components.

    FOTF: What challenges do you encounter with fielding the new Apache?

    HAGER: The new Apache has 251 new, unique components not found in previous versions of the aircraft. So the biggest challenge is making sure that the components are available and we have the capabilities and equipment to properly sustain that aircraft.

    We overcome this by using contractor logistics support, which means we provide a portion of the required parts to contractors who maintain the aircraft, and we have a good relationship with the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Ariz., to make sure the supply line flows smoothly. We’ll get an even stronger handle on that challenge in October 2014, when we’ll switch to a performance-based logistics operation that will give us a formalized standard operating system for sustaining the aircraft.

    Here too, personnel play a key part. A large portion of our staff is comprised of former military people, and their experience is invaluable. And I know my staff has the expertise to figure out how to fix the new components and obtain replacement parts, all while keeping in mind Better Buying Power initiatives that will ensure that the units get what they need at a cost that’s affordable.

    FOTF: What do you do when you’re not at work? How do your hobbies dovetail with your work?

    HAGER: I love to run, particularly long distances: ultramarathons, or any race longer than 26.2 miles. My favorite distances are the 40- or 50-milers and the 50-Ks. My wife thinks I’m crazy. I’m also a member of a local Harley-Davidson riding club. Running or riding with people I work with provides another way to build relationships and it’s a good way to get work done. The change in scene often leads to discovering different perspectives on a tough issue.

    FOTF: Why did you join the Army? What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army?

    HAGER: I joined the Army to initially leave the very small hometown I grew up in and to get an education. I was interested in airborne operations and the teamwork the Army builds when grouping individuals together from all over the United States. My greatest satisfaction is the feeling of being a part of something big. Everyone has a place and a mission, and it’s rewarding to make a change in today’s world.

    For more information, visit https://www.peoavn.army.mil/SitePages/Apache.aspx

    • “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines are featured every other week. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.

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  • Team Apache announces nickname for the Apache Echo Model

    Sofia Bledsoe


    ARLINGTON, Va. — The world’s most advanced and lethal attack helicopter received a nickname by Team Apache at the annual government-industry Team Apache meeting at the Boeing facility in Arlington, Va., Jan. 8.

    The Apache Project Office selected “Guardian” as the winning entry for the AH-64E Apache.

    The “AH-6E Apache Guardian” will be a distinction from the AH-64D Apache Longbow that has been in service with the U.S. Army and with allied defense forces since the 1990s.

    The winning nickname was submitted by Gina Gill, Logistics Management Specialist from the Aviation and Missile Command Logistics Center, who wrote the following justification:

    “Although the Apache is known as the deadliest helicopter it is much more. The Apache functions as a safeguard for our Soldiers on the ground. It seeks and eliminates threats that would otherwise be undetectable and/or indestructible allowing our troops to complete their missions. The Apache is our Soldiers’ guardian in the sky.”

    Gill was recognized by Team Apache at the meeting. The announcement, she said, came as a complete surprise. “Once Colonel (Jeffrey) Hager started reading the explanation, I immediately knew. It was a little overwhelming, and I’m very humbled.”

    “First I started with what was different about this model, and it had to be one word,” Gill explained. “With all the technology upgrades that have been incorporated into the aircraft, one word did not seem to encapsulate the technological advances that the AH-64E brings to the battlefield.”

    After much brainstorming on what the new aircraft means to the Soldiers that it protects, Gill decided that “Guardian” was the best fit.

    “The Apache is not just deadly,” she said. “It brings fear to our enemies, and security to the Soldiers it protects. I work avionics and radar, and that helps with guarding and seeing where the threats are. That’s how I came up with Guardian.”

    Several hundred entries were submitted into the contest and judging was difficult.

    “Reflecting on this process, you sometimes don’t realize the amount of passion that people put into these names,” said Col. Jeffrey Hager, project manager for Apache Attack Helicopters. “For many, this is their livelihood, and you’ve just given them an opportunity to nickname the new Apache helicopter.”

    Organizations that participated in the contest included Team Apache military organizations such as the Apache Project Office, the Aviation and Missile Command, and industry team members such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

    Leaders from each organization chose their top three to be judged by the Integrated Strategy Group comprised of leaders representing each organization.

    There were many good names and many excellent justifications, said Hager. “Some were good, some were great, and some were simply outstanding.”


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  • Army Retires Last ‘A’ Model Apache Helicopter

    COL Shane Openshaw (right), Project Manager for Apache Attack Helicopters, accepts the logbook and keys of Apache aircraft 451 from LTC Derrek Hryhorchuk, 1/149 ARB Commander, during the July 15 ceremony in Houston commemorating the retirement of the last A model. (Photos by Sofia Bledsoe, Program Executive Office Aviation Public Affairs)

    Sofia Bledsoe

    It was a proud, historic, and emotional moment for the Army—especially for the Soldiers in the 1st Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment (Attack/Reconnaissance) (1/149 ARB).

    The last AH-64A Apache helicopter, Aircraft 451, was retired from the Army and handed over to the Project Office for Apache Helicopters during a ceremony July 15 at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, TX. The event was hosted by the Texas Army National Guard’s 1/149 ARB, the 36th Infantry Division unit that had the last A-model Apache in its fleet.

    The aircraft was flown to San Angelo, TX, by CW5 Jim Sandberg, 1/149 ARB Standardization Pilot, and CW2 Adrian Domonoski, Maintenance Test Officer. There, it is being disassembled, to be taken to the Boeing facility in Mesa, AZ, and reconfigured into the next generation AH-64D Apache Longbow.

    “As the Project Manager for the Apache attack helicopter, I’m really proud to take custody of the 451,” said COL Shane Openshaw. “In about a year from now, you’ll see 451 come out of the production line as the latest and last AH-64D.”

    Aircraft 451 has a long and proud history with the 1/149 ARB, which was nominated recently for the Valorous Unit Award. Four of its aviators were recognized with the Distinguished Flying Cross for their heroism and extraordinary achievements in Ramadi, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Aircraft 451 took heavy ballistic damage, but the aircraft, crew, and the Soldiers they protected always came home safely.

    “It’s like losing an old friend,” said CPT Stacy James Rostorfer, Bravo Company Commander. “That aircraft has saved my life; it has saved many lives. It’s armored in all the right places, so you can go in, protect others, and protect yourself. We always brought everybody home.” Rostorfer, a longtime fan of the Apache, recalled playing with Apache models when he was 10 years old. “They’re still in the basement of my parents’ house. I’ll never part with it.”

    During the ceremony, LTC Derrek Hryhorchuk, 1/149 ARB Commander, recounted the unit’s heroism, remembering that Aircraft 451 kept them safe and alive. “We’re going to make sure that aircraft goes out in style,” he said. Hryhorchuk had flown the Apache’s predecessor, the AH-1 Cobra, and noted that things needing improvement in the Cobra were improved in the A-model Apache. “I’m looking forward to the capabilities that needed to be improved in the A model that are now in the D-model Longbow.”

    CW5 Jim Sandberg, 1/149 ARB Standardization Pilot, who flew the very first
    A-model Apache, holds a photo of himself
    as a young pilot. Sandberg is obtaining his
    certification as an instructor pilot for the
    AH-64D Apache Longbow.

    MG William “Tim” Crosby, Program Executive Officer Aviation, said during his ceremonial remarks that “these types of ceremonies, and in the company of Soldiers, are the constant reminders of why we do what we do, and why we strive to do it better every day. To all the Soldiers, God bless you.”

    Although the spotlight was on the aircraft, Crosby said, “I’m not here to talk about the aircraft. I’m here to talk about you—you, the Soldiers of the Texas National Guard, who have stood up and said, ‘I want to make a difference, I want to give back to my country.’ ” And it’s your pride, your courage, your passion that make that aircraft special. Because aircraft don’t fly—aviators fly. And they fly because of the mechanics and the crew chiefs who make them ready to fly.”

    “It’s like losing an old friend. That aircraft has saved my life; it has saved many lives. It’s armored in all the right places, so you can go in, protect others, and protect yourself. We always brought everybody home.”

    MG James K. “Red” Brown, Commanding General of the 36th Infantry Division, echoed Crosby’s remarks. “Never in the history of the United States has there been a better integration between the active component and the reserve component,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what uniform you put on. You add concrete to the foundation that this Nation was built upon—our volunteer Soldiers. Apaches give us the capability to prevent those who wish to harm us, and enable us to protect the values and freedoms that make this country great.”

    Remarking on the “end of an era,” David Koopersmith, Vice President of Boeing’s Attack Helicopter Programs, said, “It’s the Soldiers that inspire the Apache team. We’re fortunate to have the honor of providing Apache helicopters to help ensure that no fight is ever a fair fight.”

    Based on combat reports, the 1/149 ARB was responsible for 26 enemy killed in action and two enemy wounded in action in Ramadi. During one mission while providing a local area orientation of Ramadi at night with the 2/159 ARB, the 1/149 was called to support. Due to “danger close” proximity with friendly units in the area, one of the 1/149 aircrews slowed to 30 knots airspeed to engage the enemy position. The aircraft received battle damage, but the crew was able to hit the tractor-trailers, resulting in a massive explosion. The aircrew was awarded the Air Medal with “V” Device for Valor.

    Later in the firefight, a Soldier from 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment was seriously wounded, and traditional MEDEVAC assets were not able to respond. The 1/149 ARB aircrew in Apache 451 decided to extract this wounded Soldier. They landed, and the wounded Soldier was placed in the front seat; the co-pilot gunner attached himself to the aircraft by the wing and fuselage holds. The wounded Soldier was quickly treated and received the advanced care he needed. In the end, he recovered fully from his wounds. For this action, the crew was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

    “After you get through a couple of weeks in combat, you strap yourself into an Apache, you feel a sense of invincibility,” said COL Richard Adams, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade Commander. “There are a lot of sons and daughters in America who are alive because of that aircraft.”

    Because situational awareness is always key in combat, “the ground guys always requested us,” said Adams. “When Apache flies, nobody dies. I’m very privileged to lead these bunch of guys.”


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