Pentagon proposes cost cutting move which could cost AZ guard me - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Pentagon proposes cost cutting move which could cost AZ guard members jobs

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MARANA, Ariz. - On this Memorial Day, active duty soldiers and Army National Guardsmen are watching a key decision closely.

The Pentagon wants to remove all its Apache attack helicopters from the National Guard, a total of 192 of them nationwide, and redeploy them to the regular Army as a cost cutting move.

One Army National Guard Apache battalion is based right here in Arizona and if the administration gets its way, not only would the guard lose its Apache's, hundreds of citizen soldiers would lose their jobs.

The AH-64 d Apache attack helicopter's train over southern Arizona. The Army National Guard houses the Apache's at a helicopter base in Marana near Tucson.

25 Apache's are based here, but for how long?

"The Apache is an attack aviation asset," said Major General Michael T. McGuire.

Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire is the Adjutant General of the Arizona National Guard, and he wants to keep the Apache's right here.

"If this restructuring initiative is passes those 25 helicopters would be moved out of Arizona to active duty installations around the country," said McGuire.

With a push from Arizona's delegation, a key House committee just recently blocked the proposed cost cutting move. But the administration is fighting back, saying the bill to save the National Guard Apache's is unacceptable.

If the full U.S. House & Senate agree, a lot of Arizona guardsmen will be out of a job.

"Those 340 guardsmen would be told their service is no longer required in the Arizona Air National Guard," he said.

"if the Apache's go away I'll either be reclassified, or I have a chance of losing my job," sad Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey McCormick.

Sgt 1st class Jeffrey McCormick is a full time avionics and weapons technician with the Army National Guard in Marana. He's one of dozens who work to keep this weapon in the air.

"The weapons systems that the Apache carry are the 2.75mm rockets, it also carries hellfire missiles, and also has a 30 millimeter chain driven cannon," he said.

At a recent media gathering in Marana, he showed us how the Apache works and how important it is to the men and women who work on them every day.

"To lose the helicopters would be a really big impact to not only all the families of the guardsmen because we are civilian soldiers but to a lot of the troops that are in my unit they are civilians, so they do this part time," said McCormick.

Later, we were taken out to the flight line for a little demonstration.

The guard is hoping public support will help keep the helicopters at Army National Guard bases in Arizona and seven other states. "if the Apache's go away than the first of the 25th the plan is the battalion will go away," said Lt. Col Rea.

The Army wants the guard's Apache's to replace its older OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopters. Scouting is something the guard says the Apache was never designed to do.

The AH-64 was designed for combat, something these pilots took part in during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008.

"We did the full spectrum combat operation, we did deliberate attack operation, we did medevac escort operations," he said.

Lieutenat Colonel Todd Rea is the battalion commander, he flew Apache's in Afghanistan.

"I was in Salerno, which was east, they call it the Khost Province," said Rea.

Major Wendy Reed was also deployed in Afghanistan. "Most of those missions were on special-ops type missions," she said.

But why does the Army base attack helicopters in Arizona? for one reason, the weather.

"I would argue that Arizona is the greatest state in the nation to do military aviation," said McGuire.

And since its inception the Army National Guard isn't just for stateside use in an emergency, it's also there to provide experienced back up in a time of war.

"We are the strategic reserve of the Army. So when the Army gets into prolonged engagements like they did in Afghanistan and Iraq we provide them with the strategic capability to provide relief to their active duty counterparts," said Rea.

"I know of no other non nuclear capacity that we don't have some reserve capability as a resident and citizenry in our states so if they have some skin in the game in the defense of this nation," said McGuire.

Since 9/11, these so-called weekend warriors have been deployed overseas in unprecedented numbers. More than 12 thousand National Guardsmen from Arizona alone have been deployed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And nearly 800 National Guardsmen from across the country were killed in those wars seven of the fallen are from Arizona.
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