Tennessee National Guard could lose 30 armed helicopters

Tennessee National Guard could lose 30 armed helicopters

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There are currently 338 Kiowa Warriors in the Active Army and 30 in the Army National Guard. There are currently 338 Kiowa Warriors in the Active Army and 30 in the Army National Guard.
"It's disturbing," said CW2 Dale Long, an aircraft mechanic supervisor. "It's my livelihood. It's what I've done my entire life." "It's disturbing," said CW2 Dale Long, an aircraft mechanic supervisor. "It's my livelihood. It's what I've done my entire life."
"It's been in service since the Vietnam era," said Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Clawson, with the Tennessee Army National Guard. "It's been in service since the Vietnam era," said Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Clawson, with the Tennessee Army National Guard.

NASHVILLE (WATE) - The Tennessee National Guard says the U.S. Army's plan to eliminate the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters from the Army inventory will result in Tennessee losing 30 helicopters and the 692 soldiers who support them.

Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Max Haston says the move will also eliminate 113 full time jobs and possibly two of the three Army flight facilities across the state.

"It's disturbing," said CW2 Dale Long, an aircraft mechanic supervisor. "It's my livelihood. It's what I've done my entire life."

The Army's plan is to assign its rotary wing reconnaissance missions currently being done with the OH-58D to the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter until a suitable replacement is determined.

However, the Tennessee National Guard says the Army has failed in numerous attempts over the past few years to select the next generation of armed reconnaissance helicopters.

There are currently 338 Kiowa Warriors in the Active Army and 30 in the Army National Guard.

"It's been in service since the Vietnam era," said Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Clawson, with the Tennessee Army National Guard.

Units of Tennessee's 1/230th Air Cavalry Squadron who fly OH-58D Kiowa Warriors are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan with the aircraft later this year.
 
The Army plan also includes moving the LUH-72 Lakota helicopters, newly acquired specifically for the National Guard, to their aviation training center at Ft. Rucker to use as a platform to train new pilots.  Tennessee currently has four of these new helicopters and will lose one and possibly two of these airframes under this plan.  The LUH-72 is primarily utilized in the state's counter-drug missions and numerous other missions that do not require heavy lift capability. 

Haston says the loss of aircraft could also affect the Guard's ability to respond during domestic emergencies.

The aircraft has been put to use in East Tennessee with surveillance operations and rescue missions in the Smokies.

"We would go in and try to locate where the lost hiker or camper may be and then we were able to send the rangers in for the rescue," said Lt. Colonel Clawson.

The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior was involved in two crashes in East Tennessee in the past few years.

Two National Guard pilots died when their helicopter crashed in Campbell County in 2011. Two other pilots were not seriously injured when their helicopter made a hard landing in Knox County last month.

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