AZ Army National Guard fights to keep helicopters and jobs as budget cuts loom

TUCSON, AZ - A big vote is coming up at our nation’s capital Wednesday.

It’s the first step that could decide the future of our Army National Guard and the livelihoods of 800 soldiers here in Arizona.

It's all tied to the fate of 24 Apache helicopters.

Under next year’s defense budget plan, those helicopters could be taken away and given to the Army.

That’s because the 2015 military budget includes cuts to the Army National Guard.

If the Apache helicopters are taken away from the Arizona Army National Guard, officials say less maintenance is needed on base.

And one in five soldiers across the state could lose their jobs.

 “I'm the breadwinner of the family, and this job pays for my mortgage and our livelihood so it would impact us dearly,” said Sgt. First Class Jeffrey McCormick.

Army officials said they're trying to save money as the defense budget shrinks.     

Army National Guard units in eight other states would also lose their Apache helicopters if the vote goes through. That’s more than 200 Apache helicopters overall.

Army officials said they would be replaced by 100 Blackhawks.

But officials with the Arizona Army National Guard said that replacement is not the same. They said their soldiers are trained to fly attack helicopters, and they would lose valuable skills.

Guard soldiers said it was important to be able to fly the same kinds of missions as active duty soldiers, since sometimes they are also deployed overseas.

"We need them for the same reason the active duty army needs them. 'Cause we also go to war, and we are that strategic reserve,” said Chief Warrant Officer Al Dupre.

“When the active army has done rotation upon rotation, they start suffering attrition in manpower, attrition in aircraft, and we backfill that,” Dupre said.

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee votes Wednesday on the military budget for next year.

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