Head of Arizona National Guard fighting to keep Apache helicopte - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Head of Arizona National Guard fighting to keep Apache helicopters

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The head of the Arizona National Guard is fighting to keep its attack helicopters in Southern Arizona, as the US Army moves to reduce the number of Apache attack battalions in the National Guard.

The Arizona National Guard has been doing attack aviation at the Silverbell Army Heliport near Marana since 1978. Its 1st/285th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion is one of six Apache-attack helicopter battalions in the National Guard of the United States.

But, a 2016 recommendation from the Commission on the Future of the Army moved to cut the number of battalions from four to six. It’s still unclear which Apache attack battalions the Army would keep if the plan goes through.

The Arizona National Guard’s adjutant general, Major General Michael T. McGuire, said the decision appears to be based on budget issues, but he is fighting to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“We have the luxury of being able to fully man this battalion and we’re hopeful that the Army will not look to divest, retrain or retire the capability that's been built,” he said.

A recent report estimates the unit's economic impact, combined with other units in the Arizona National Guard, to be around $147 million dollars.

McGuire said he wants to see the helicopters stay in Southern Arizona, and also wants to see training capabilities brought back to the Western Army Aviator Training Site.

He believes getting rid of the battalion, which has been deployed three times since September 11th, 2001, would waste the critical skills of the hundreds of personnel involved in the unit. If that were to happen, they would be transferred to non-aviation units. 

“It's a difficult sell for me, or for anyone I believe, to convince someone that in the current threat environment, the best military is to divest experienced seasoned combat aviation experience and capability in the Arizona National Guard or any of the other states with this capability,” he said.

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