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NEWS | June 20, 2019

RSA civilians get first-hand look at 101st Airborne

By Miles Brown

A select group of Department of Army civilians from Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, experienced first-hand how their daily work supports today’s warfighters.

The AMCOM Emerging New Leaders program, offered to all federal employees assigned to RSA, coordinated a trip to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) for more than 60 ENL classmates and Army Contracting Command interns as an educational and motivational opportunity that few get to experience.

“You have an unbelievable opportunity to see one of the most storied fighting units in our Army,” said Joseph Giunta Jr., the executive director and senior contracting official for ACC. “I hope you come away from this trip with a better understanding of what it takes to train and equip today’s warfighters and a deeper appreciation for our frontline Soldiers.”

That was the main goal this trip, according to Jared Tarver, a human resources specialist assigned to AMCOM G-1.

“These types of trips help our ENL participants get better connected with the whole Army, its missions and our Soldiers,” said Tarver. “We had an excellent opportunity with this trip to team-up with ACC and their intern program to maximize the reach and get the biggest bang-for-our-buck out of our trip to the 101st Airborne Division. I think everyone really walked away with a greater understanding of what it takes to get our Soldiers ready to fight and win.”

The trip participants received overview briefings about the 101st Division, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and the Air Assault School, where more than 10,000 Soldiers pass through the “Gateway to the 101st” annually for a variety of demanding advanced Air Assault helicopter operations courses. Many of the courses have wash-out rates that exceed 40 percent. That fact, and the live demonstrations on the obstacle course and repelling tower by “Black-Hat” master instructors made it clear to the trip participants that only the best Soldiers will earn their Airborne Assault Wings.

The importance of trust and readiness for division Soldiers was driven home during a lunchtime briefing from Lt. Col. Nicholas Ploetz, the 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment. commander.

“Trust is vital on our teams to ensure mission success,” said Ploetz. “By hosting groups like yours and sharing what we do to train, deploy and fight our Nation’s wars, you will have a better understanding of our capabilities. And we will learn more about your mission which provides the resources we need to get our job done. It helps us build a level of trust between you and our Soldiers. We trust you will get us the parts and maintenance we need, and you will trust us to defeat our Nation’s enemies, anytime… anywhere.”

The tour then took on a more “hands-on” approach. The participants experienced the UH-60 Black Hawk, UH-47 Chinook and helicopter gunner simulators. These simulators provide realistic helicopter training experiences at a fraction of the cost of flying live training missions. Aviators and crew chiefs often start training in these simulators before they ever fly their first training mission. And for the DA civilians experiencing the simulators for the first time, the realistic look and feel of trainers was obvious from the start.

“You have to climb in, wear the flight helmet and listen to an instructor giving you detailed instructions to follow during the training,” said Caitlyn Hall, an AMCOM logistics management specialist. “Having the opportunity to use the same high-tech training equipment used by Soldiers across the Army every day was very cool. I think this experience and exposure to a Soldier’s training environment helps me understand how important my work is to the Army’s readiness.”

And of course no visit to the 101st would be complete without the thrill of the real deal – a flight in a Black Hawk. The Soldiers with the 5-101 Aviation Brigade did not disappoint.

With a safety briefing completed and earplugs in place, these visiting DA civilians were treated to a breathtaking 25-minute aerial tour of Fort Campbell and the surrounding countryside. The aircraft appeared to hug the tops of the trees and dive down into ravens giving these helicopter novices the ride of a lifetime. And based on the expression and comments, it worked.

Many exclaimed “That was amazing,” and “That was unbelievable.” Several of the guests were speechless after the flight, and a few were a little green around the gills.

“I think the Black Hawk flight really made a lasting impression on the ENLs and interns,” said Tarver, who is one of the ENL program leaders. “We are so thankful to our hosts for their time and for showing our folks what a first-class fighting unit does to prepare for conflict. I think everyone making the trip will go back to work at on the Arsenal ready to do their part to keep the Army’s readiness second to none.”