Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Reservists Here May Surrender Choppers to National Guard Battalion Based at Scott AFB Apparently Is about to Be Disbanded

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Reservists Here May Surrender Choppers to National Guard Battalion Based at Scott AFB Apparently Is about to Be Disbanded

Article excerpt

The Pentagon is about to clip the wings of an Army Reserve unit here.

The unit is the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation, which makes its home at Scott Air Force Base. The battalion's pilots fly two dozen UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, now the Army's main hauler of men and material.

But today, the Defense Department is expected to announce that the Army Reserve will surrender most its cargo helicopters to the National Guard. In return, the National Guard will give the Reserve its attack helicopters - those armed with cannons and missiles.

That's no consolation to the Army Reservists here, because for a variety of technical reasons, none of them expects the unit at Scott to get attack helicopters. Instead, they fear the unit will simply disappear, taking with it 670 job slots and an annual payroll of almost $6 million.

Late last week, members of the unit sent a letter to the White House, to the congressional delegations of Illinois and Missouri and to the governors of both states. The letter points out the unit's accomplishments during Desert Storm, when it deployed to the Persian Gulf, and during the Great Flood of 1993.

The reservists call the plan "ludicrous" and add: "We did not join the Reserve to `play politics,' as our bothers in the Guard seem to do. We joined to accomplish a mission, and based on our past achievements, I would say that we have accomplished that mission."

The charge of "politics" arises because in peacetime, each state's National Guard comes under the control of the governor. In contrast, the part-time soldiers in the Army Reserve report directly to the active Army.

The National Guard would like to have the cargo-hauling helicopters to lend a hand with its peacetime missions - disaster relief, for example. Attack helicopters are designed for combat and fit poorly into disaster relief.

The switch of the Reserve's cargo helicopters for the Guard's attack helicopters strikes one curious note. …

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