August 27, 2012

Interview With a Night Stalker

Colonel Clay Hutmacher entered military service January 4, 1978, as a private in the U.S. Marine Corps. In May 1984, Hutmacher transferred to the Army after being accepted into the Warrant Officer Flight Training program. After completing flight school, he was assigned as a UH-60 medevac pilot in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

Following graduation from Officer Candidate School and the Aviation Officer’s Basic Course, Hutmacher assessed and was accepted for assignment to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group, where he served as the Headquarters and Service Company executive officer and the MH-60 DAP platoon leader in D Company until May 1991.

Following graduation from the Aviation Officer’s Advanced Course, Hutmacher was assigned as the 160th’s exchange officer to Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Fla. There he served as the squadron tactics officer, Instructor Pilot and Flight Commander for the 55th Special Operations Squadron. Hutmacher was then assigned to Flight Concepts Division at Fort Eustis, Va., where he served as a section OIC and operations officer.

In June 2002, Hutmacher returned to 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR(A), where he served as the executive officer until June 2004. Hutmacher commanded 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment in Giebelstadt, Germany, from June 2004 to May 2006 and most recently commanded 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR(A) from July 2006 to May 2008. Aircraft ratings include the UH-1, OH-6, AH-6M, UH-60 and MH-60L.

Hutmacher’s awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross with one Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC), the Bronze Star with two OLCs, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal with two OLCs, the Meritorious Service Medal with two OLCs, the Air Medal with number 6, the Army Commendation Medal, the Air Force Aerial Achievement Medal with one OLC, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star (BS), the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medals with two BSs, the Southwest Asia Service Medal with BS, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals, the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal, the Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Liberation Medals, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Valorous Unit Award and the Joint Meritorious Unit Award. He also wears the Combat Action Badge, the Master Army Aviator Badge, the Pathfinder Badge, the Parachutist Badge and the Air Assault Badge.

Hutmacher was interviewed by SOTECH Editor Jeff McKaughan.

Q: I understand that the regiment is growing. Can you give me some insight into the transformational end state of what the regiment will be when it gets there?

A: The exact end state for the regiment has not been finalized because there is continually increasing demand for special operations aviation. What I can explain is the growth currently authorized and where there is potential for growth in the future.

Our ongoing growth was approved in Force Design Update 05-1, which affects fiscal years 2008-2013. The regiment experienced some of its most significant change in 2008 when it activated 4th Battalion at Fort Lewis, Wash., and reorganized 2nd Battalion at Fort Campbell, Ky., and 3rd Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia.

This force structure update created identical organizations in 2nd, 3rd and 4th battalions that comprise two heavy-lift companies of eight MH-47Gs each and one medium-lift company of 10 MH-60s. These battalions form the nucleus of the support provided to all of our special operations forces. While the structures of the units are identical, it will be several more years before they reach full strength. In 2013, we will stand up an MH-60M company in 2nd Battalion and all three battalions should be fully fielded by 2014.

The uncertainty for the transformational end state of the regiment is due to a number of programs that are either in the process of being approved or in the proposal stage. The most significant and important changes are occurring with our Special Operations Aviation Training Company [SOATC]. The regiment is currently working with TRADOC to receive accreditation for SOATC’s current training program so that it is recognized by Headquarters, Department of the Army, as an accredited training institution.

Both the Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker and the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg have reviewed the program, and an expected accreditation date is set for October 1, 2009. The regiment is also working with USASOC and USSOCOM to identify the appropriate level of command and manning for SOATC. Providing SOATC with the appropriate level of manning will free up many of the operational crewmembers SOATC had to use in the past to maintain the proper manpower and to sustain its throughput requirements.

Unmanned aerial systems are becoming an incredible force multiplier in the SOF community. The Special Forces groups are in the early stages of receiving Shadow platoons, USASOC is working toward fielding two extended range multipurpose UAS companies for SOF, and USSOCOM is considering fielding a rotary wing UAS platform. While the Shadows will remain with the SFGs, the larger UASs are slated to remain a part of Army special operations aviation [ARSOA] and may fall under the command and control of the 160th SOAR (A).

One hotly debated issue is the number of special operations helicopters. Many recent studies [CSIS, RAND and the Robert Martinage testimony to the House Committee on Armed Services] have all highlighted the need for additional special operations helicopters. There are many potential courses of action currently being evaluated, but they each point toward a concerted effort to grow SOF helicopters in order to improve the amount of rotary wing support to our SOF ground forces.

Based on the current approved growth and the potential for increases in SOF aviation assets, ARSOA will continue to transform over the next decade. It is quite likely that the regiment as we know it will remain the premier precision assault and attack helicopter force, but as part of a much larger organization with many more capabilities.

Read the rest at Special Operations Technology!

About the Author

is an eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served as a Sniper and Team Leader in 3rd Ranger Battalion and as a Senior Weapons Sergeant on a Military Free Fall team in 5th Special Forces Group. Having left the military in 2010, he is now working towards a degree in Political Science at Columbia University. Murphy is the author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, the PROMIS series, and numerous non-fiction articles about Weapons, Tactics, Special Operations, Terrorism, and Counter-Terrorism. He has appeared in documentaries, national television, and syndicated radio.

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  • AVoodooChild

    Wow .....he did it!  I knew he would be a success. I knew General Hutmacher  (?) as a Warrant Officer when I was a Sgt in flight platoon as a crewchief with 326 Med Bn 101 st. Airborne.  Spent a few nights on 1st up and TDY with him and many training flights. I remember him as a focused and proficient pilot.  Air Assault Sir!  Congrats to you and your wife.  You did it!   Bartman

  • StormR

     @Chairborne Commandos Radio Good grief - my 2nd sentence made no sense...that's what I get for trying to edit one sentence when my brain has already moved on to the next sentence (or perhaps it's the cold medicine I'm taking).  "...the noise hasn't abated much since they now must fly higher over residential areas."

  • StormR

     @Chairborne Commandos Radio LOL - true that.   I'm guessing from your statement that the noise hasn't abated much since they now must flyer higher now over residential areas.   I only get the big cargo planes from McChord going over my house and its become like white noise to me...of course, I live near railroad tracks as well so too quiet keeps me awake now LOL

  • Chairborne Commandos Radio

     @StormR While I appreciate the nature behind the ops... It's really a sleep killer.  3 to 4 times a week just after mid night. 

  • Connor31

    Speaking of Night Stalkers, 1/160th was training in Minneapolis.