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Chinook fielding may ease governors' concerns

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 14, 2011) -- When Army National Guard units deploy overseas and take aviation assets with them, it sometimes leaves voids back home, but a Guard official said CH-47 Chinooks expected to be fielded beginning this month may alleviate some of that concern.

When Guard aircraft deploy, governors are concerned about their ability to respond to disasters, said Col. Michael E. Bobeck, chief, Aviation and Safety Division, National Guard Bureau.

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Bobeck and others in the Army's aviation community spoke Jan. 13, at the Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare Army Aviation Symposium and Exposition at the National Harbor in Maryland.

"Clearly they (governors) are concerned with the availability of aviation assets in the states," said Bobeck "They believe that aviation is one of the top three things on their plate in (terms of) what they are looking for in the event that there is an emergency in the states."

More helicopters are on the way that may alleviate some of the stress the Guard is feeling with aircraft numbers, Bobeck said

"We don't have all the CH-47s or UH-60s that we are supposed to have, yet," he said. "Those aircraft are cascading (in) as new aircraft are fielded. And we are working very closely with the Army staff to bring aircraft into the force."

This month, he said, eight CH-47D Chinooks are coming into the Guard from active units -- as those units get new aircraft.

"That allows us to keep eight aircraft in country or in the U.S. for training and for domestic operations support," he said.

The colonel said, for example, leaders from one state are concerned that their soon-to-deploy Chinook unit will leave them with only one aircraft in the state - one the Guard needs to move to another state.

"I've been spending a little bit of time with one particular state. Their Chinook unit is deploying to theater," Bobeck said. "They have one left and they want to keep it. And it's going (to take) quite a bit of time explaining why we need to move that aircraft to another state, because they are getting ready to deploy in the next rotation."

Another concern senior leaders raised at the Aviation symposium was a difficulty integrating NATO and U.S. capabilities.

Maj. Gen. Robert B. Brown, commander of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, Ga., discussed challenges in integrating NATO and American forces with differing network technology.

"Our NATO forces are lagging, no question," the general said, saying the technology gap is a number-one concern among Europe's Army chiefs of staff. Compounding the problem are budget cuts for European military services. But Brown said in Afghanistan, at the center of the fight, the coalition nations there have found ways to get their differing technology to work together.

There, among the 39 European countries that are allied with the United States, there was initially inability to efficiently move information across systems.

"Originally it was all stovepipes," Brown said. "It was vertical stovepipes instead of horizontal information flow. It was the old fight. Over the last year-and-a-half, the Afghan Mission Network came about. It broke down stovepipes and enables folks to (now) communicate and talk to each other. So, you have different levels of technology, but there are ways to pull closer together."

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