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Home Aviation New aviation brigade leader says being at Bliss ‘just feels right’

New aviation brigade leader says being at Bliss ‘just feels right’

David Burge, El Paso Times
Published 11:30 a.m. MT Aug. 3, 2017 | Updated 5:39 p.m. MT Aug. 3, 2017

Col. Jay Hopkins has a hard time containing his enthusiasm about his new job.

Hopkins, a 44-year-old from Lancaster, Wis., took command of the 1st Armored Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade on July 21.

“It just feels right,” Hopkins said. “This is where the Hopkins family needs to be for the next two years.”

Hopkins is impressed by the great facilities contained within the Iron Eagles’ footprint and feels this infrastructure is so nice it needs to be the model for the rest of Army aviation.

“I tell young soldiers who have never been stationed anywhere else that this is the best they will ever see,” Hopkins said.

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Hopkins leads the 2,700-soldier, full-spectrum helicopter brigade.

The Iron Eagles are equipped with Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters and Shadow reconnaissance drones. The unit is scheduled to add the larger Gray Eagle drones to its repertoire sometime in the next two years, Hopkins said.

Besides impressive facilities, Hopkins has also been wowed by the close relationship between Fort Bliss and El Paso.

Twice previously during his career, he stopped at Fort Bliss briefly while traveling to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., but has never been stationed here before.

“We love it,” Hopkins said. “The community has really welcomed us with open arms.”

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Most recently, he did an Army War College fellowship at the University of Notre Dame. Rounding out the past five years, he also did a stint on the Joint Staff (Global Force Management) at the Pentagon and commanded the 4th Battalion, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade in South Korea.

Hopkins said he’s has inherited a top-notch organization that was capably led by previous commander Col. Tom O’Connor. O’Connor left to become the deputy commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, Ala.

“I can’t say enough about someone who most of us believe is one of the best aviation leaders we have in the Army,” Hopkins said.

Readiness will be the brigade’s top priority, just like it is for the rest of the Army, Hopkins added.

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“We want to be the model for what readiness looks like in Army aviation,” Hopkins said.

His predecessor did a great job laying the foundation, but Hopkins now wants to “build on that success, advance the ball and become a better organization.”

The brigade has been conducting gunnery and will do its next big field training exercise in October to work on mission-command functions, Hopkins said.

The main focus during his tenure will be on training, maintaining equipment and leader development.

Those three add up to equal readiness, Hopkins said.

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Being the commander of the Combat Aviation Brigade is a tremendous honor that hasn’t quite sunk in yet, Hopkins said.

“I’m proud to be doing what I’m doing and with the people I’m doing it with,” he said.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Steve A. Donahue Jr., the brigade command chief warrant officer from Leesburg, Fla., said Hopkins has an “established reputation.”

“He is respected by his soldiers and peers alike,” Donahue said. “We are blessed to have him and his family join the Iron Eagle Brigade.”

More: New director at Fort Bliss National Cemetery wants to leave ‘fingerprint’

David Burge may be reached at 546-6126; dburge@elpasotimes.com; @dburge1962 on Twitter.

Col. Jay Hopkins

  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from U.S. Military Academy; master’s in leadership from Central Michigan University
  • Awards: Bronze Star (one oak leaf cluster); Joint Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal (five oak leaf clusters); Air Medal; Army Commendation Medal (one oak leaf cluster); Joint Service Achievement Medal
  • Family: Married to Christine, from Fort Wayne, Ind. Children: Jackson, 18; Carsyn, 15

 

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