May 7, 2014 1:05 AM by Sean Mooney

Army's attempt to grab Apache copters doesn't fly with National Guard

TUCSON - Another piece of the military force in Arizona could become a casualty of proposed federal budget cuts.

Facing billions in lost funds the Army is out to grab all 24 of the AH-64D Apache Attack Helicopters based at the Silverbell Army Heliport in Marana. The Army claims the National Guard is not as qualified as active personnel to fly and maintain the airship know as the "Long Bow".

The Army is expected to trim $79 billion from its budget over the next five years. The proposed cuts include the loss of nearly 900 helicopters. To replace the lost aircraft the Army wants the National Guard to turn over its entire fleet of 192 Apache Helicopters, including all 24 of the aircraft based in Marana.

The Army says the move is justified because the National Guard's abilities fall short. The Commander of the 1st-285th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, Lt. Col. Todd Rea, says says that reasoning doesn't fly, "That's inaccurate, we perform, we train to the same standard, we have the exact same requirements."

According to the National Guard, it is 60% cheaper to maintain a National Guard Battalion than an active-personnel battalion.

The Mayor of Marana, Ed Honea, says members of the National Guard contribute a lot to the community because most of their soldiers are part-time, "It's tens of millions if not 100's of millions (of dollars) over the years, these folks live in our community, they shop here, many are citizen soldiers."

The 1st-285th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion has more than 450 personnel attached to it.

For now the move is on hold. Bill 3930, submitted to Congress in January calls for a commission to re-evaluate the proposed helicopter grab and other cuts.


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