FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- "It's our job to be ready. It's what we do." That's according to the Army's senior Aviator, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville, who explained the Army's topline remains constant as the service prepares for the future, during his remarks at the Aviation Senior Leader Forum at Fort Rucker Jan. 29.
McConville emphasized key Army priorities of readiness, modernization, and managing the Army's most important weapons system -- its people, as he spoke to more than 150 current and legacy Army Aviation leaders who gathered at the home of Army Aviation for the annual event.
The forum, hosted by Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, provides an opportunity each year for Army Aviation brigade commanders, command chief warrant officers and command sergeants major to hear from senior leaders and tackle issues together to ensure a more ready Aviation force.
McConville highlighted the National Defense Strategy as an important read for every leader, because it will "drive everything we're doing" going forward, he said.
While many Aviators for most of their careers have focused on irregular warfare, counterinsurgency and counter terrorism (since 9/11), the nation and the military are at an inflection point.
"You have a generation of Soldiers, noncommissioned officers and officers who may not be familiar with where we're going. They've grown up thinking you can go anywhere on the battlefield, and as long as you're above 1,500 feet you're uncontested….
"In the future, we anticipate we're going to be contested at every single place on the battlefield. We're going to have to change a generation of leaders who have grown up doing something different, who haven't massed fires, who haven't had to worry very much about an intensive air defense capability," McConville said.
With a focus shifting to preparing for "great power competition" and Multi-Domain Operations in the future, "the battlefield is going to get bigger, it's going to become more dispersed, we're going to need a different type of Soldier to operate in that battle--a different type of training, a different type of capability," McConville said.
Going forward, the priority is building a more lethal force, strengthening traditional alliances and building new partnerships, and reforming business practices to ensure the Army remains ready.
Readiness includes ensuring the deployability of Soldiers, and a new Army Combat Fitness Test to help produce a more physically fit force.
"We want to inculcate a culture that if you're on this team we call the Army you need to be able to play at away games, and you've got to do that," McConville said.
The Army also looks to reduce requirements on brigade and below when it comes to tasks that are not related to readiness, and also improving the readiness of general officers.
"We have senior leaders, and a lot of you (here), that have been in combat for 16 or 17 years and we want them to stay around 35 or 40 years. We've got to take care of them," McConville said.
This includes leaders and subordinates making time to take care of themselves and their families.
"We're serious about it because this is a marathon, not a sprint. It's for all of you. There's time to take leave, there's time to get balanced. If you don't want to do it for you, do it for your staff," he said. "We want to make sure people are ready."
The Army's modernization priorities take aim at making Soldiers and units more lethal to win the Nation's wars, and then come home safely.
"The modernization effort is huge, and it's going to fundamentally change the way we operate," he said.
Topping that list is Long Range Precision Fires at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, according to McConville.
He emphasized two major programs within the Future Vertical Lift modernization priority--the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and a Future Long Range Assault Aircraft, as the Army leaps ahead and looks to increase reach, protection and lethality, and improve agility on the objective.
While technology is changing, Aviation will always exist to support troops on the ground.
Each of the Army's modernization priorities, which also includes the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, Army Network, Air and Missile Defense, and Soldier Lethality, will be funded; and each has a dedicated cross-functional team to bring together operators, acquisition, and science and technology all on one team to break away from industrial age processes and reduce the timeline it takes to go from developing a requirement to actually getting the technology in the user's hands.
According to McConville, another important focus for the Army is improving procedures to identify, manage and retain talent across the force in the future, including Aviation warrant officers.