Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind: A Synopsis of U.S. Army Reserve Fixed-Wing Aviation

By Brig. Gen. Scott R. Morcomb | Army Reserve Aviation Command | Jan. 31, 2017

Jan. 31, 2017 — On any given day, behind the pleasant noise of the cadenced and rhythmic prop wash, often lays a select few of Aviators who earn their pay above the clouds at 25,000 feet. Regardless of weather conditions, or time of day, these Aviators are responsible for some of the Army’s most sensitive and critical assignments. The professionals selected to work these cockpits are of the highest quality and are regularly grown from within the ranks of Army Aviation. The Army Reserve Aviation Command’s (ARAC) Fixed-Wing mission is anything but conventional, seeing as the ARAC is continuously tasked to support contingency operations within the continental U.S. and worldwide. With a Theater Aviation Battalion (TAB) Headquarters placed on each coast with companies strategically placed throughout the U.S., the ARAC is poised to continuously provide an “always available” fleet of fixed-wing capabilities to all Combatant Commanders.

The ARAC’s fixed-wing array of forces, consists of over 300 soldiers split between the 6-52nd TAB, which is the west-coast based battalion, and the 2-228th TAB, which is the east-coast battalion. While the battalions share similar high quality Soldiers, MTOE characteristics and overall mission sets, they prepare for their CONUS and OCONUS missions by operating in diverse, often austere environments.

For the 6-52nd TAB, Pacific Pathways, has become and will continue to be their 6-52nd’s primary operational training focus. Pacific Pathways is a means by which the U.S. attempts to rebalance the Asia-Pacific region. Through a deliberate and strategic partnership with the active component, primarily I Corps, this campaign utilizes 6-52's capabilities to enhance training and expand the Army’s sphere of influence in the Pacific Rim through VIP movement and critical cargo delivery. Reserve Fixed-Wing Aviators rotate as flight crews in and out of any of the nation’s allies in the Pacific Rim for up to three weeks at a time. These partner nations include the likes of Mongolia, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

2-228th TAB holds steady as being the largest dedicated operational lift Fixed-Wing Aviation Battalion in the U.S. Army Reserve. 2-228th also embraces the unique requirement of supporting the U.S. Army Jet Training Detachment at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia. 2-228th is targeting the increased multi-national training activities in Europe to create a similar effect in the EUCOM area of responsibility (AOR) as 6-52 is having in the PACOM AOR. Given the Army’s critical role in assuring our partners are deterring our adversaries in Europe, focused Theater Fixed-Wing activities can greatly exceed the sum of their parts from an operational and strategic perspective. These worldwide opportunities provide 2-228th's crews, and flight operations personnel, invaluable experience such as being able to safely and effectively operate in increasingly complex international environments. These exercises and real-world missions prepares our crews for all conditions, including weather, terrain and any airspace challenges this world can offer.

Ultimately, the ARAC is pursuing all viable complex training opportunities available in any given year under the reserve training model, all while supporting multifarious, worldwide missions. Our mantra will remain: “We fly customers, not airplanes!”

The future of the Army Reserve Fixed-Wing community has never been more promising. My optimism not only centers on the talent of these special aviators, but more specifically our system of creating them. We do not recruit, in the traditional sense, to fill these cockpits but instead these aviators are grown from within the Army Reserve’s flight lines or acquired from within the transitioning active-duty field. This is an ideal advantage for the Army Reserve’s “Citizen Soldiers”. It maximizes the synergy of civilian and military training and experience. Once transitioned to the Army Reserve’s Fixed-Wing community, a good number of our crews continue to build experience in the military and, in many cases, commercial aviation. George Washington said, “When we assume the soldiers, we did not lay aside the citizen”. Our Citizen Soldiers highlight the inverse of this daily, “as citizens in our communities they certainly, do not lay aside the soldier”. They continue to prove this day in and day out in executing these complex missions safely, around the Globe in support of the most important customers in the World. Not just senior officials but more importantly, Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen.

“Rise Above”