Friday, January 09, 2004

Another US helicopter down: and a new problem

The Americans have now had 2 helicopters shot down this year - this time it was a Blackhawk, with nine men killed. (The one before that was a highly manoeuvrable OH-58 Kiowa reconnaissance heli, a worrying development.) The Sydney Morning Herald has an interesting angle on the shooting-down here.

"General E. J. Sinclair, commander of the US Army Aviation Centre at Fort Rucker, Alabama, said last week that continuous foreign assignments were "going to cause some problems". He illustrated his concern by describing the plight of a senior US Army aviator who watched from afar while his newborn daughter grew into her toddler years. The army major has seen his daughter for 12 days in the past two years.

"I can't bring him back in my right mind and tell him after a month or two he has to go to Korea for a year-long assignment without his family. But that's what's happening," General Sinclair said.

Exacerbating the problem is a sharp increase in deployment times. The army announced last northern summer that US troops in Iraq would be there for one year, up from the typical six-month deployment. Retention concerns are especially acute in the service's aviation branch because of the extra investment in time and money required to train pilots to fly helicopters such as the Apache, Black Hawk and Chinook."

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