- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Tweet

FORT DRUM — After 20 years of operations in the north country, the post’s Kiowa helicopters will fly for the final time today.

The aircraft have been on post since the arrival of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade’s 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry. The unit has deployed four times to Afghanistan since 9/11, along with an additional deployment to Iraq.

The helicopters have been used in scout and reconnaissance missions, and have seen a high level of use. In May, one of the squadron’s Kiowas hit 10,000 flight hours, becoming one of only four in the entire Army to hit that mark.

The Army is phasing out the aircraft. Post leadership, including garrison commander Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, has said the older aircraft are “going the way of the dodo bird.”

The end of the Kiowa fleet comes as a part of an Armywide shift in its helicopter fleet to save money, one that has launched debate in Congress and objections from the White House.

The Army is in the process of moving Black Hawk helicopters from active service to the National Guard, and sending National Guard AH-64 Apache helicopters. Currently, 24 of the AH-64 aircraft are scheduled to move to the north country around June.

However, the helicopter transfer has caused some frustration from lawmakers in affected states, who have attempted to delay the move. The Army has defended the move on multiple occasions, including a recent confirmation hearing for Army Chief of Staff nominee and former Fort Drum commander Gen. Mark A. Milley.

The White House, in a position paper released last week, said any delays for the 24 planned Fort Drum Apaches and similar transfers elsewhere “will damage the readiness of Army units.”

Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, helped kill an amendment in the House that would have blocked funding for the Apache transfer.

The post said in a news release that the special Kiowa flight will result in higher-than-normal flight noise from 1 to 3 p.m. today.

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(c)2015 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

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