FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Feb. 2, 2016) — The newly formed Army Airborne Board held its inaugural meeting on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Jan. 28.
Chaired by Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg commanding general, the board, designated by the Army secretary, provides conventional airborne forces the ability to create unity of effort in addressing concerns related to doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities.
“I’m told this is only the second secretary of the Army-designated board to bring coherence to a topic,” Townsend said. “That’s what our mission is, we’re supposed to speak with one voice for the Army to bring coherence to the topic of conventional airborne operations.”
Bruce Parker, Army Airborne Board secretary, said the formation of the board was a long time coming. For at least 10 years, the airborne community has asked to have a lead that can act as a spokesperson and speak for all conventional airborne forces.
“Commanding generals throughout the force sent requests through Forces Command up to the Department of the Army and the board was approved in August by the secretary of the Army,” Parker said.
Army directive 2015-33 designates an Army lead for conventional airborne forces. “That [designation] is by position. It will always be the XVIII Airborne Corps commander. He is the senior paratrooper for conventional airborne forces,” Parker said.
The board is made up of 10 voting members – all two- or three-star generals – including the chairman, and 71 non-voting members, made up mostly of colonel or colonel equivalents.
“Most Army major commands are represented on this Army Airborne Board as voting members,” Townsend said.
Within the board, six committees, each led by a general officer, take on issues and provide recommendations that are briefed to the board and opened to a vote, Parker said.
“We created these committees … where we’ll farm these issues out for study. Those committees will be in power to bring solutions and issues to the board,” Townsend said.
Once recommendations are voted on, the board will present them through the appropriate Army command, agency or organization to the Department of the Army for review, disposition and implementation.
During the first meeting, the board’s governing documents were approved and the following four issues where presented:
Topic 1: T11 parachute revision/improvement. Since its fielding, concerns with the parachute have been identified. Modifications to the parachute system have been recommended.
Topic 2: C-17 formation spacing reduction. Current spacing geometry and load restrictions hinder operational employment of airborne forces in the amount and timing desired. Funding and continued testing are recommended.
Topic 3: Rigging manuals. Manual updates were not keeping pace with user demands. Continue collaborating with agencies to prioritize and identify operational equipment variant requirements for development of technical manuals.
Topic 4: Update NATO standard agreements and Air Force “approved for use list” for allied partner nation airdrop. The prolonged approval process for airborne interoperability with NATO and allied-partner nations is negatively impacting training and readiness. Partner with Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Transportability Test Loading Activity to expand “approved for use” list and work to streamline approval processes.
The topics discussed at the meeting were among more than 20 others the board has collected. Throughout the next two years – the length the board is chartered – members will meet as a whole body twice a year. The next meeting will be in May.
Once the charter expires, the Army will evaluate the board and determine if it will be continued.
“I look forward to many years of this board serving the interest of the Army. We have a two-year charter right now to show it will bring value to the Army and I think that will be easy to do,” Townsend said.