DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS
FORT BRAGG, NORTH CAROLINA
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
Oral History Interview
DSIT AE 003
MAJ Sam S. Walker, III
Executive Officer (Forward), 4th Squadron, 17th Cavalry
Interview Conducted 13 February 1991 in the Quarters of the 4th Squadron, 17th Cavalry, Manama, Bahrain
Interviewer: MAJ Robert K. Wright, Jr.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
7 August 1989 - 15 May 1991
Oral History Interview DSIT AE 003
MAJ WRIGHT: This is an Operation Desert Storm interview being conducted on 13 February 1991 in the quarters of the 4th Squadron, 17th Cavalry, in Manama, Bahrain. The interviewing official is MAJ Robert K. Wright, Jr., XVIII Airborne Corps Historian.
And sir, if I could get you to give me your name, rank and serial number?
MAJ WALKER: Sam S. Walker, III, Major, ***-**-****.
MAJ WRIGHT: And your duty position within the unit, sir?
MAJ WALKER: I am currently the XO (Forward), and that sounds kind of strange, but based on our configuration that that's the position that I hold in the organization. I am also the liaison to the Commander Middle East U.S. Naval Forces in the Arabian Gulf.
MAJ WRIGHT: Can you explain to me when you first came to the 17th, 4th of the 17th?
MAJ WALKER: I came to the unit in June of 89 and at that time, we were in the process of transitioning from the name TF 118 or Task Force 118 to 4th of the 17th. And that was a conscious decision we were making, based on the fact that we knew where the unit was hopefully heading in the future years to come.
MAJ WRIGHT: Your function initially as the forward deployed senior officer was somewhat different than what it is now with the colonel [LTC Bruce E. Simpson] forward?
MAJ WALKER: Right. My position is throughout the unit. It's kind of--I'm in a very unique position here--I have been throughout the organization, primarily because I've held every position that you can hold as a field grade officer in this unit. I started out as the squadron S-3. I held that job for seven months and deployed for six months to the Gulf, and was the forward commander and, at that time, also, the liaison officer or the Special Assistant to the Joint Task Force Middle East Commander.
Since then, I went back after six months over here, I went back to the States and was a squadron commander for approximately four months and after the change of command, when LTC Simpson came on board as the DA-assigned squadron commander, then I became the XO in the rear and that transpired into my deployment over here to be the XO Forward and what we call the liaison to the Senior Commander. I still act as a special assistant to the admiral.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of the positions you've held, you've had a particular focus, then, on being the human interface with the rather complex naval command and control arrangements here. Could you go into some detail on that?
MAJ WALKER: It's been a very enlightening experience dealing with the Navy. One of the things that I've seen that is particular to our unit is that the Navy enjoys our presence. They want to use us. The problem that I see is that because we are not attached or have no administrative attachments to the Navy, we find it very difficult to get any support from them.
So, it's very much like a love/hate relationship. They love to have us, but they hate to support us, and it's carried over for at least the last two years like that. The thing about the Navy staff, the CMENF staff that I've been accustomed to over the past almost a year and a half is that they are a very bureaucratic command. They do not do a lot of operational planning. They are more a--the CMENF and previous to that
JTFME--is a flag-waving staff who would show the flag here in the Arabian Gulf, make a lot of port calls, and orchestrate those port calls, but never were they a true battle staff or ... . And that holds true during DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. They have no operational control of the ships that, by the task grouping or task organization, they ... it says they own them and they control them, but operationally they don't plan any operations and they don't control any assets in that regard.
MAJ WRIGHT: So, it's an awkward transition for somebody coming up with the Army system to try to cope with, whereas it apparently doesn't particularly bother the Navy ship captains to deal with this sort of an arrangement?
MAJ WALKER: It's extremely strange. I don't understand it, especially in this scenario. I understand Army task organizations and the purpose behind them. The Navy task organizations are, or seem to be, oriented more towards how many people they can get in theater to have some responsibility or have some participatory action in the Arabian Gulf. There's a lot of cross responsibility with several commanders owning the same assets, yet those assets are being called to do maybe two to three different missions, and it's a fight between those commanders as to who has got the priority on what mission at what time.
So, it definitely is a weird relationship and, in a lot of cases, our guys are caught in between because they're being asked to be ... they're being tasked along with the ships that they're on to either do the combat search and rescue [CSAR] missions or they are being utilized as an anti-surface warfare reconnaissance security element out there, and yet there's two different commanders for the ships that are being tasked to do both those missions, so it's a little difficult.
MAJ WRIGHT: Back in the Army channels, the squadron and the task force before it belonged to 18th Aviation Brigade under XVIII Airborne Corps, yet you were physically, most of the time throughout that whole period, in at least the forward element, widely separated from what is your nominal parent command. How did that system work, particularly back during the [Operation] PRIME CHANCE days?
MAJ WALKER: Even today, although with the deployment of the rest of the XVIII Airborne Corps, we've seen much better support because our [maintenance] support, I Company [Company I, 159th Aviation] from the COSCOM [1st Support Group (Corps)], is over here with us, so we get a lot better support in theater than we have ever gotten before.
The thing that has been unique about this is that all our support has been long-distance support from Fort Bragg, and we have not ... we have not gotten or there has never been a system that the Navy has worked out, to where they actually give us support here in theater: logistically, administratively. So it's been about an 8,000-mile lines of communication with most of our equipment flying out of Norfolk, Virginia, or being transhipped (especially our ammunition) to Diego Garcia and then coming in by surface shipment to the Arabian Gulf.
The other thing is that because we were semi-special or a unique organization, we were handled more by Corps than we were by 18th Aviation Brigade. We had our own project officer. I say "our own:" we had a project officer that was assigned to us out of the Corps EOC [emergency operations center] who, when we needed support, when we needed to send messages to the Navy, that individual was there to make sure that the messages were sent, that the coordination was orchestrated. So, there was a ... . We bypassed the brigade quite often just because there were a lot of things, a lot of classified information, that would have bogged the system down if it were going through 18th Aviation Brigade.
Since that time, since the end of PRIME CHANCE and the beginning of DESERT SHIELD, the conclusion of DESERT SHIELD carrying into DESERT STORM, much of that has changed. We are over here with our parent brigade. We are activated as 4th of the 17th and we find ourselves being supported much better by our parent organizations because we're all over here together. And it's made supporting our people out on the water much easier, because we're not travelling 8,000 miles to get equipment or personnel supported properly.
MAJ WRIGHT: You alluded to Company I. That's Company I, 158th Aviation?
MAJ WALKER: No, I Company is the aviation support company in COSCOM. They are who we requisition many of our parts through and they control the control point for all the aviation parts that come in for 18th Aviation Brigade, whether the UH-1, CH-47 or our aircraft AH-58D.
The one particular thing about our aircraft is that because of the ships that we work on, our parts cannot come through ... let me back up a little bit. Our AH-unique parts, which are electromagnetically protected from hazards through electromagnetic radiation, so that we don't get surges in our black boxes and our computer systems, have been hardened. We have to go through a special supply system to get those parts. All OH-58-unique parts, though, come through I Company and that helps out tremendously.
MAJ WRIGHT: Once you've got them just on the other end of the causeway in Bahrain.
MAJ WALKER: That's right.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of the operational mode, you've been with the unit a fairly long time and you've watched it go through sort of the slack period, the way the aviators have described it to me--your warrant officer pilots--of nothing really much happening after the truce in the Iran-Iraq War until August  with the start of the blockade. Tactics and things have evolved over time. Your aircraft change over time as additional components are fielded out to them and you start going through, for example, the rapid deployment equipment now that's starting to come in.
MAJ WALKER: Right.
MAJ WRIGHT: Has that posed a particular problem for you in the sense that you've got to go ... for some of this stuff, you've got to go to the Bell technical representatives; for other stuff, you've got to go through Army supply channels; and you've got to try to get the part from the States into the Navy flow system to get over here?
MAJ WALKER: Any time you modify a system, it creates a problem because of the testing it, making sure it's compatible with the system that you're going to put it on, such as our aircraft, and then finally procuring the item. In our case, a lot of our testing and seeing if it's compatible and then procuring it, has all been done--I don't mean this derogatorily--but on the sly or on the side. We haven't done a lot of, you know, going out to major buyers and then having them bid on things. We saw what we needed. And this is something that when the organization was first put together, we kind of pig-tailed off what the 160[th Aviation Group] special operations guys do. If they see something they need, they go out and they say, "Hey, we need this," and they put it on their aircraft and they use it. That's how this unit has bought a lot of its special systems, because ... initially because of the expediency and the time frame that they were dealing with to get the aircraft modified and ready.
Since DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, we've tried to add some systems that would enhance our capability, primarily in the navigational side. We've tried to get the GPS, which is global positioning systems, on board. We've also integrated what's called an M-1 laser, which we haven't employed on our operational aircraft until just recently after we went through testing and the pilots got qualified in how they would be utilized to help us put the .50-cal[iber] first-time rounds on target by just following a laser, a class two laser that you can see visually with the night vision goggles.
So, these are a couple of new systems that have come about just because it enhances our capability to do a better job. In terms of tactics, it hasn't changed our tactics. If anything, it just enhances our ability to do what we do out there, and that's patrolling, reconnaissance, and surface-to-surface surveillance.
The M-1 laser enhances our capability to either defend ourselves or to attack somebody and ensure that we're not wasting rounds by following tracers, but we can follow the laser spot right to the target and ensure that we're, the first time, on target with our rounds. So, in that sense, I think we've enhanced our capability without having to change what we do during the process of procurement.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of the stability of the unit as it has grown and evolved from [Task Force] 118 to 4/17. You had the benefit in the initial forming of the unit of, basically because it was a new airplane never before in the inventory, you got the cream of the crop, as I understand it, in terms of both the air crews and the maintenance people. You got quite a healthy load of experience coming in.
MAJ WALKER: That's right.
MAJ WRIGHT: Now you're looking at coming up on three-plus years for those guys. Now you're looking at, "Oh, my God, we're going to lose all that experience and where are the replacements coming from?"
MAJ WALKER: We've seen a major transition taking place here, primarily in the past few months because of an influx of personnel.
The one thing that we haven't had, and we can thank DESERT STORM for this, or DESERT SHIELD, is that we haven't seen a tremendous outflow of personnel. So, we still have the nucleus of a very experienced organization. That tends to allow us, over the course of the next five to six months, to use the experience we've got to train those new personnel coming in, and we're fortunate. I don't think there's any unit in the United States Army that can say that over a three-year period, they've retained 60 to 65 percent of the same people.
The thing that that's allowed us to do is it's continued to refine our tactics, refine how we fix and repair aircraft, refine the supply system and identify (based on lessons learned) those things that we need to do to make the system better. And then pass those things on to the new people coming in. So, I think we haven't been hurt as much as a lot of other units would be, based on the fact that the majority of units undergo approximately 30 percent turn-over in the course of the year. This unit hasn't.
On the flip side of that, though, there are people that needed to move on. There are people that have been ... not in this organization for maybe too long but have been at Bragg, at Fort Bragg, too long. And it has not been too career-enhancing for them because of the longevity of their stay in this one place, and not having the mobility to move on to different units and experience different positions.
But I think, in the long run, the unit has definitely benefited from the core of experienced personnel that have stayed in the organization.
MAJ WRIGHT: Talk to me a little bit about the maintenance issue. When you're 8,000 miles away from base and you are still being required to meet the standards for safety and everything else, you've got to--there are only so many hours you've got to have for different types of maintenance, inspection. You've got to go through phase inspections and the rebuilds and stuff like that.
How do you accomplish that over time?
MAJ WALKER: This is one of the real interesting things I just want to mention. When we started out in some of this--I'm just going to tell you from my understanding what's gone on, not really having experienced it--but during the first year and, say, about five or six months, the organization had mobile sea bases here in the Arabian Gulf that they operated off of. On these mobile sea bases, WINDBLOWN [?] and HERCULES, there was an established maintenance base. And they set those sea bases up so that you could perform a complete phase, a phase inspection, where you'd tear the aircraft down and you make it basically structurally a system that you can't even move because you'll damage the aircraft.
That was based on the fact that these mobile sea bases were fairly stable platforms. They were barges that did not get disturbed very much in pretty much any kind of sea state because of the ballast that they had built into them. Again when the mission started to go away, when the Iran-Iraq peace was signed, then a lot of the Navy vessels left the Gulf and they started manning down. The minesweeps went away and all the mobile sea bases went away. It became very difficult for us to do anything.
In fact, over a year and a half time frame, we did not do a phase here and this was the most difficult part of the whole thing, that we would have to fly our aircraft back to the States, in a C-5 [Galaxy] or [C]-141 [Starlifter], in order to swap out our aircraft and get an aircraft over here so we could continue to fly. So, for a year and a half, phase maintenance was conducted because we had the facilities. Then we didn't have a facility and the Navy, in their infinite wisdom, did not supply us with the capability to perform that, so we had to constantly transship our aircraft in and out of theater, just so we could get an aircraft with the time limit back in here and continue to perform the mission.
Since DESERT SHIELD, we were able to piggy-back onto some of the other organizations that have come in, and we now share a facility, a hangar facility, that allows us to once again perform phases. We just pulled our second phase in two months and now we have, once again, we've got the ability to perform major maintenance in theater which tremendously enhances our ability to continue to survive and keep our aircraft in good flying shape without having to worry about the long distance transshipment back to the States.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of the prep[aration] for Operation DESERT STORM as it started in. Originally, you are armed reconnaissance and you do primarily nighttime ... extending the eyes of the Navy patrol ships, primarily the FFG-7s [Perry-class guided missile frigates]?
MAJ WALKER: Right.
MAJ WRIGHT: When you start looking at Operation DESERT STORM and the notion then that you're going to have to pick up a combat search and rescue mission. How different is that from your standpoint, watching the Navy planners? Frigates, I understand, can flip in and out of missions like that fairly easily, but how difficult was it for the 4th of the 17th?
MAJ WALKER: The one thing that I saw the Navy do smartly in the beginning of this is that they had several train-up sessions where the air crews that are out here participated not only with Navy SEALS, with the Kuwaiti patrol boats, but on the two frigates that we were going to be tasked with conducting the CSAR operation with.
We had several planning conferences where we laid out the certain idiosyncrasies, the radio frequencies, and fine tuning how that operation would take place. In terms of, you know, it being different from the reconnaissance and surface search surveillance that we were doing, the only difference was that we were escorting--we were practicing escorting Navy SEALS out to a certain site to identify downed personnel and then provide the security as they were picked up out of the water either by Navy SEALS or by an SH-3 helicopter.
So, what it did was it changed the mission from going out and just searching a certain sector to an escort-type mission which really didn't change our ability to perform the mission, especially since we went through a train-up in preparation for that mission.
MAJ WRIGHT: Since the air war kicked off and we don't have the large number of downed airmen that everybody had feared, you start picking up other missions, then, correct?
MAJ WALKER: What we've done is reverted to our old mission, which was reconnaissance and surface search surveillance in the ASU [anti-surface unit] dedicated mode. In some cases, the ships have tried to--maybe not the frigates themselves, but the operational Navy commanders out there--have tried to project the frigates' ability to perform by using our aircraft and having us go out, do some reconnaissance on our runs, using our videotapes to plan missions.
So, you've gotten some good experience in projecting our--in helping the ships project--their power a little bit, all under the guise of surface warfare mission of looking for small boats, possibly looking for mines, which, you know, there may be a little truth in that, but we don't usually look for mines. It's the small boats and trying to pick out any threats that may come into the area of the FFGs.
MAJ WRIGHT: Have you been involved at all in the planning for possible amphibious operations on the Kuwaiti coast?
MAJ WALKER: We have, several times. There have been several major planning sessions, and each time that they've talked about the use of our aircraft, it's been in the anti-surface warfare aspect of protecting the mine/countermine ships or aircraft that will be out there. So, again, they're not really looking at using us in any mode that we would not be familiar with or technically capable of accomplishing.
MAJ WRIGHT: As you've watched, I guess, two iterations of admirals now--I guess VADM Fogarty's predecessor and now VADM Fogarty--have you seen at that senior level of leadership an appreciation and an understanding of what the AHIPs can and can't do?
MAJ WALKER: What I've seen in--the first admiral that was out here was Admiral Less. I didn't have the opportunity to be here when he was here. But after seeing VADM Fogarty, he has enjoyed having our aircraft out here. But I think it's more from the aspect that he's the only one that has them and nobody else does, and so it's his unique little asset that he has tried to hold onto, and been supported by people that agree that he had a viable asset that can be used to--as I said previously--extend the eyes of the ship and also extend its survival capability.
What I have noticed at the senior level is that, obviously, you have commanders that get involved and others that have a tendency to sit back, and from what I understand, VADM Less was a very hands-on leader. He liked to get out and talk with his people and, you know, understand fully what their thoughts were and how they functioned. VADM Fogarty works in quite the opposite way. He sits back. He does a lot of observing but he is a hands-off type person. He does not particularly like to get his--he does not get his hands dirty and doesn't get up there in the front lines, but he still appreciates our aircraft for what they can do.
MAJ WRIGHT: When you talk to the frigate captains who are your primary, I guess, operational interface, by and large, what I pick up is that ...
[END OF SIDE ONE]
MAJ WRIGHT: Resuming on Side Two.
As I was saying, most of the frigate captains like to have you when there is a mission to perform and by and large, wish you well, but "Please don't do it on my ship," when they don't perceive that there's an immediate mission that you guys could have?
MAJ WALKER: That's correct. Obviously, each ship has its own personality and that personality is a projection of the captain's personality. Most of the ships, especially now, definitely appreciate our ability and what our capabilities are and what we can do for their ships and enjoy us being on board.
Previous to DESERT SHIELD, it wasn't that way. We were on ships, several ships, that did not want us on board. The captain didn't want us on board and that just projected down to the crew's attitudes towards our people, and it was very difficult for our people to perform in that adversarial environment. That's one of the things that was probably going to allow us to finally be released by the Navy, is that the Navy saw no mission for us out here prior to DESERT SHIELD because there was no threat, based on the reduced Iranian threat and the small boats and the like.
Once there was a threat, though, then the ships' captains did a 180[-degree turn] and really appreciate the ability we had to see at night and to see further out and also have our defense capability available to them.
MAJ WRIGHT: As I observed yesterday when we went down to the dock area, is the [U.S.S.] Nicholas typical, or more pro having the AHIPs on board or less, because I mean those guys seem to be very, very happy and feel very, very close to your det[achment] that was embarked.
MAJ WALKER: The Nicholas was an anomaly when it comes to frigates. One, they had a captain who was a warrior. He wanted to be involved. He liked having our aircraft on board because, for one thing, it was a unique asset that he never experienced before. The other thing, though, and I think this is even more important, is that we were on that particular ship for almost four months--not the same detachment, but we had--they came out here in the end of October and we were on them until the middle of February, and they got very comfortable with our aircraft. They knew what we could do. And because the captain was a warrior, it kind of once again projected down into his crew and they liked the capability that we gave the ship.
MAJ WRIGHT: Then, I guess, also, I saw them after you had already gone through combat with them twice on two separate engagements and I guess I was seeing some of that bonding, that foxhole bonding effect, going on?
MAJ WALKER: Exactly. The ... like I said, the Nicholas and one of the frigates that we're currently on now, the [U.S.S.] Curts ... I see the same thing happening on that ship where the captain is very comfortable with our people on board. He appreciates what we can do, what our aircraft can do for his ability to project his power and also defend himself, and they feel very comfortable with us on board.
Like you've said before and we've talked about, previous to this threatening environment, when there's nothing for us to do out there, the problem evolves that because of the time in which we fly, which is always after dark, it always requires them to keep people up on flight quarters and conduct a reverse cycle for more personnel than they are used to. It puts a strain on the ship's crew. That strain, in an environment that does not require that strain to be there for any other reason than to let our people to fly, has, in the past, created problems. Not so when there is a threat. They want us to be flying because we're the only thing that can see out there at night.
MAJ WRIGHT: Talk to me a little bit about the capability of the aircraft, the AH-58 as a platform. What do you see as a senior leader in the squadron that you've discovered or had reinforced to you by this deployment that would also be applicable in other operational areas? Maybe not always over water, but things like that? What have you picked up as lessons sort of out of that that are universal?
MAJ WALKER: Well, there's ... the first thing is, and it's not just the airplane itself but it's the pilot and how he interacts with the airplane. I think when you've got highly trained, night vision goggle pilots that understand how the system operates, that they can work like a hand in a glove, and they can go out.
The pilots, especially if they're used to working with one another at night, can enhance not only the aircraft's capability but if they're working with, say, the AH-64 which is what we would expect maybe later on at some point, we can use our navigational system at night and the fact that we've got the ability to reach out with the weapons systems that we carry on board to accomplish a number of different missions.
The other thing that this aircraft allows you to do that no other observation helicopter gives you the ability to do, and that is to defend yourself. Previously, we've always had, you know, our OH-58A or C model, you go out there and the only thing that a pilot could use was his .38-[cal. revolver] or 9-mm [automatic] out the door to protect himself, whereas, now, when you go up forward, if you're engaged, you can return fire and then break contact and move to a different position.
The other thing that is just--that makes this aircraft so much better than any other observation aircraft--is the mast-mounted sight. If you understand how that system works and how it can enhance your ability to look out and if you understand how it can be optimally utilized during the night with the thermal energy system, you can do a much better job than any other observation helicopter in the world.
But your system is only going to be as good as the pilots that fly it, and that's where I think our aircraft or our unit is head and shoulders better than a lot of units. Because we have just a tremendous wealth of experience within this organization. The amount of time that we've spent in this theater, going on almost 6,000 hours, working in the same about 200-mile--I'm not giving the square mile radius, but in the north Persian Gulf, just enhances our capability to do a better job than anybody else.
MAJ WRIGHT: One of the things that struck me: your pilots tell me that the two ships working together is really a wing-man usage, akin to the way fixed wing aircraft in the Navy or the Air Force fly. And that's slightly different than, say, the way you would think back to the traditional pairing of a scout and an attack helicopter, because each one can cover each other.
MAJ WALKER: Right. I wasn't in the organization when they first started developing the tactics. I think, once again, these tactics came from the Special Operations community and what we've done is just taken what they've given us and tried to enhance it.
I haven't seen where we've done a lot of changing or refining, because it seems to be working and has worked over the past three years. There are different ways that, you know, you can think about doing anything, but I think it's a good system in how we operate it.
MAJ WRIGHT: As I tried to relate what they were telling me to, say, Vietnam, where you had the unarmed [OH]-6 being covered by the [AH-1] Cobra, a one-and-one isn't the same thing as what you've got. What you've got is closer to doing it with two airplanes like the old heavy fire team used to be, with the one scout and you had the two gunships so you can maintain that continuous rolling fire and cover each other's breaks. You're doing it, it strikes me, with a little more economy of force.
MAJ WALKER: It's economy of force only in the aspect that everything that you've got flying out there can either engage or--well, can engage the enemy, so you can afford to go with one less aircraft due to the fact that the guy that may be leading out in front can not only attack, but he can defend himself, and he's also covered by the guy behind him, who can do the same thing.
MAJ WRIGHT: In terms of the way your pilots and their crews work, is it pretty much the same maintenance element that go out on a deck each time? Or do you try to rotate the people differently?
MAJ WALKER: It would be nice if we had the ability to maintain team integrity and always send the same people with the same pilots or the pilots with the same enlisted crew. Unfortunately, we don't have the trained personnel to do that. What we've relied on is really the--once again, I hearken back to this wealth of experience we've got. When we get new in-bound people, we always put them through a certain training program, through training to prepare them to come over here for the mission.
The biggest problem that I've seen is our senior NCOs have pretty much remained in the unit where the younger enlisted soldiers have PCSd [changed permanent duty stations], ETSd [separated from the service], or gone to schools and that sort of thing. And there's been a lot more turmoil at the lower enlisted level than at the senior level. So, there has always been a training process that was taking place as we went along. And as we've seen here in maybe the past year and a half, we had finally gotten some new pilots in and also increased our training program as far as pilots go.
The thing you have to remember here is that for the first almost two years that this organization existed after the initial train-up there were no new people. Everybody was the same, and so they didn't have to worry about a lot of retraining because of the way the rotations went. People would rotate out to the Gulf and they would come home for about 30 days and then they would go right back to the Gulf, so they were always getting reinforcement on the mission.
Then, all of a sudden, after two years, we started to have those PCSs and ETSs more on the enlisted side than on the officers' side, and all of a sudden the unit had to go from having this great continuity during these rotations to having to devise a training program to make sure that we had trained people all the way through. So, that, more than anything else, causes us not to be able to maintain that human integrity, just because of the personnel constraints.
MAJ WRIGHT: As you project out to the future, in other contingencies, the squadron might again find itself with a forward element and a rear element or two forward elements in two different parts of the world.
Do you see the same notion of putting one of the field grade officers always out forward with the detachment, just to give them somebody with a little more horsepower to do the interface?
MAJ WALKER: That's been an evolving process. Again, yes, I do see that happening and the reason I see that happening is because in most CONOPS [contingency operations] that we're looking at right now, we're going to be working with the Navy. What I've seen in working with the Navy over the past year and a half is that they are extremely rank conscious, and unless you've got somebody that is 0-4 [major] or above, they don't pay you much heed, and you'll get walked over. So, I definitely see that if not a field grade officer as the liaison officer, there will be a field grade officer over all that--over the mission--in order to ensure that our people get taken care of.
MAJ WRIGHT: Anything else that is a topic that you think really needs to get on the record that I haven't been smart enough to ask you?
MAJ WALKER: No, I think we've pretty much hit it. I would like to say that the professionalism of the soldiers in this unit has, by far, been above any that I've ever experienced in any organization. I say that because of the amount of time that people have been able to acquire the skills in doing this mission.
Not too many times do you see an organization that has the same mission over an extended amount of time, other than maybe in combat--that this unit has had the opportunity to perform and perfect and, you know, to actually devise not only the tactics for--but their own separate air crew training program that the Army has taken, based on the fact that the experience of the pilots and the instructor pilots that have put the program together and have shown that they, you know, are experienced enough and understand what they're saying.
It's the only organization that has a--not only do you go get your aircraft qualification at [Fort] Rucker, but then you come to the organization and it takes you almost six months in transition to prepare to fly the aircraft and fly the mission. I don't think any other organization, other than maybe one of the Special Ops organizations, would be allowed to do that unless they had the people and the experience to do that.
So, for me, it's been a tremendous experience. Having been the XO, the squadron commander, the S-3, I've been able to glean every single aspect that this organization has to offer to gain a full appreciation of the personnel and what the unit can do.
MAJ WRIGHT: I appreciate your taking the time, sir.
MAJ WALKER: No problem.
[END OF TAPE]