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Reading and writing for a new aviator
A response to "Fractured Branch Publications"
In this guest post, CW4 Chuck Boehler offers advice on reading and writing to the nameless aviator featured in “Fractured Branch Publications.” This post focuses on aviation, but provides an approach that is appropriate for every branch.
Thanks for stopping by your brigade standardization office CW2 Earhart.
My quick and easy answer to you about what you should be reading is Aviation Digest and FlightFax. Aviation Digest is our branch’s professional journal and FlightFax is published by the US Army’s Combat Readiness Center and has up to date flight safety information including accident analyses. There are lots of books I’m happy to recommend, but the question of what an Army Aviator (or Soldier in any MOS for that matter) should be reading and learning doesn’t always have a simple answer.
A lot depends on where you are in your career and the mission your unit has. Since you’ve recently earned progression to Readiness Level 1 (RL1), your focus now should be on mastering your flying skills, working towards making Pilot in Command (PC), and maybe most importantly, developing a tactical mindset. The first two topics (flying skills and making PC) are very much interrelated and will improve with deliberate practice. Although there is a very important cognitive aspect to becoming a PC, your unit should have a program in place to help develop those skills. Self-development is a critical part of being an officer and aviator, so I’m glad you’re interested in it.
The branch journals are important because that’s the primary venue where you’ll see discussions on current topics. There is another magazine, called Army Aviation, that’s published by the Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) which may seem similar to Aviation Digest, but it generally has much different content. While Aviation Digest is edited and published directly from aviation branch, Army Aviation is published by AAAA which is a non-profit organization that lobbies and advocates for our branch. To generalize the difference, articles in Aviation Digest are written primarily by Soldiers currently in operational units, whereas Army Aviation’s articles are written mostly by senior leaders in the branch or industry and speak mainly to ongoing initiatives. To be clear, I’m not downplaying the significance of branch associations as I’ve been a member of several throughout my career and find value in them.
I also believe you’ll find reading other branch’s journals highly informative and they can really transform how you look at your own job. At a minimum I’d take a look at Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery, and Air Defense Artillery. Just by virtue that these are the branches that we normally directly support or work closely with, you’ll not only learn about the current issues they’re discussing, but also start to speak their language. This doesn’t just mean particular doctrine or tactics, but knowing their acronyms and processes can only help you throughout your career. To be clear, I’m not saying you need to dig through everything in the other branch’s journals, but it can be really enlightening to just skim through them and find articles of interest.
Also, don’t forget that you’re also a Warrant Officer. This means many things, not the least of which is ensuring you’re a professional officer. There are some great resources available to help you do that. Military Review should be on every Army leader’s reading list. As a Warrant Officer you will likely appreciate the information and discussion contained within the pages of Strength in Knowledge. And lastly, the Modern War Institute has a regular flow of timely articles online that stimulate thought and discussion on military topics.
All of this is a lot, and you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. A few points here. Just because you’ve graduated flight school and completed RL progression, it doesn’t mean you can stop working. To the contrary, you only have a minimum baseline of knowledge and skills right now to perform your job. Like any profession, being an Army Aviator requires constant learning. There’s no need to feel like you have to do everything at once. Take it in smaller pieces, if that helps, and develop a routine. A goal of reading one article a day can be a great way to work your way through all of this information.
Something else to consider is writing. You no doubt have a point of view and opinions that are of value to others. There’s no better way to synthesize those thoughts than putting them on paper for others to read. You’ll find that it forces you to consider other points of view and be more mature in how you view problems and solutions. It will get you more involved with your profession and give you a voice that you may not otherwise have.
Most of all, this process of learning should be fun. This is a great profession, one that we’re really lucky to be a part of. Like anything else, it’s what you make of it.