FORT BRAGG, NC – The Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion (SOATB) bid farewell to Lt. Col. Mark G. Kappelmann and welcomed new commander Jeffery J. Bragg in a ceremony Friday at the Gen. Bryan “Doug” Brown Compound, Fort Campbell, Ky.
In his last decision as the SOATB commander, Kappelmann made the weather call as rain persisted throughout the morning, moving the ceremony indoors to Fox Hangar.
Brig. Gen. Clayton M. Hutmacher, U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC) commander, praised Kappelmann for his accomplishments in the areas of maintenance and procedures, including formalizing the Army training requirements and resources systems process for SOATB Programs of Instruction (POIs). While not high visibility actions, Hutmacher explained these as necessary steps that equate to more aviation assets down range.
The SOATB conducts Army Special Operations Aviation individual training and provides education in order to produce crew members and support personnel with basic and advanced qualifications for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) (Airborne).
All Soldiers, officers and enlisted, must go through a similar course called Combat Skills before assignment to the 160th SOAR (A), while aviation officers and Soldiers also continue through numerous other POIs before becoming Basic Mission Qualified in their aircraft.
Kappelmann described the SOATB as “realistic and relevant training, built upon a foundation of constant after action reviews, input, and improvement.
I believe those assigned to SOATB are proud to say they work where we all take “The first step in Night Stalking,” he said.
During Kappelmann’s command, SOATB trained nearly 1,000 new Night Stalkers, developed combat ready aviators by flying more than 11,200 daytime flight hours and conducted 152 aerial gunnery ranges, 84 small arms ranges, 68 flight training exercises and 184 aerial refueling training events.
Kappelmann described changes during his command as transitioning from training Night Stalkers on the MH-60L to the MH-60M, developing a new water survival course for ground force customers and planning for the integration of Unmanned Aircraft System resources into the training base.
The SOF truth “People are more important than hardware” is evident in what the SOATB means to the ARSOA enterprise.
Hutmacher highlighted this in his remarks “The professionalism of the people shows in our enduring commitment to the SOF operator on the ground, and that we will never fail the customer,” he said. “The people in our ranks are what make the 160th such a great organization. We invest heavily in them, understanding the critical role they play as they are responsible for our future. That foundation is established here at SOATB.”