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Army Halts Helicopter Pilot Training to Fund Foreign Aid Bills for Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine: Fact or Fiction?

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US Army Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker Novosel in Alabama, has had up to $130 million of their $140 million budget for training taken away. This will result in the cancellation of US helicopter pilot training soon. What caused this? If the source is to be believed, and as I show later, there is no reason to doubt the source, DOD directed that training for Army helicopter pilots cease so the money could fill gaps in the recently passed Israel-Taiwan-Ukraine foreign aid package.

The story broke from two sources. On “X,” formerly known as Twitter, a training team leader posted an email to his(?) team giving them the bad news.

Team,

BLUF, or “bottom line upfront”: We will not have the funds to fly FSXXI after May 01. DOD has taken our funds to allocate them to Ukraine and foreign obligations.

A Terminalcwo Instagram account has some translated jargon and more details. The writer has a lot of information from the original email but claims to have checked the story himself and gathered some details.

 

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A post shared by Terminalcwo (@terminalcwo)

USAACE will not have the funds necessary to continue Flight School XXI after May 1. According to official messages, the funds were allocated to “Ukraine” and “other foreign obligations”. G3 Air has a current plan of action that could delay this to May 15. This rule is not absolute.

– Graduate POl (i.e. D/1-14*h) will continue to fly.
– Flight School IERW FMS students will continue to fly. Their funding has been pre-paid by host countries.
– Students will continue to go through Academics at Merryman.
– LCT periods will continue.

Students will continue to be required to report to the flight line to ensure accountability, even though training has been discontinued. No A940/ATP flight training will take place. Department of Army Civilians, contractors, and employees will continue to receive their regular pay.

Unknown is the length of time training will be suspended. The Army will likely move money around to continue training by the end of the fiscal year. However, this is just speculation. Many officials also downplay the importance of the school closing for new pilots, citing the high number of WO1s/LTs already in the force.

The lack of funding comes after an unprecedented number of aviation mishaps occurred in FY23. Defense News reported that “Fiscal 2020 marked the highest death rates for Army soldiers since 2011 when the U.S. formally withdrew its troops from Iraq. With a total of 14 deaths across 10 accidents – formally classified as Class A mishaps – accidents resulting in loss of life or equipment worth more than $2.5million.”

In general, I dislike stories that caveat their sources, but I believe it’s necessary in this particular case. There seems to be only one source so far for the story. I dislike single-source articles. The email was so absurd that it needed to be discredited if false and made public if true. Today, I called Fort Rucker Novosel’s public affairs officer. I sent LTC Andy Thaggard an email asking him some simple and non-adversarial questions.

Questions:

1. Is the email a true representation of the training situation in Fort Novosel

2. Is there any order to cancel or suspend flight training after May 1?

3. Was the decision taken by AVNCOE or higher headquarters?

4. What impact will the cancellation of scheduled training have on the ability to provide trained aviators for the field force

While training has been discontinued, students will be required to continue reporting to the flight line for accountability. There will be no A940/ATP training flights. Dept of Army Civilians and contractors will continue to be paid without furlough.

As we did yesterday, the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence continues to train world-class Army helicopter combat pilots and will do so until told to stop.

The Army’s Office of Public Affairs will answer any budget-related questions.

I thought that the answer was “yes.” To be cautious, I took his advice and asked the Department of Army Public Affairs the same question.

Here is what Mr. Jason Waggoner said, a civilian employee of the Department of the Army:

Here is my response to your question. You may attribute my answer if you wish. The Army will continue training pilots as planned at Fort Novosel.

This typo was not mine.

The tone of the question led me to believe that the answer was “yes.” The “as scheduled”, however, does not specify what schedule is being discussed. This email would be easy for you to determine if it contained any false information.

This is madness, even if we are being charitable. It is absurd that the Department of Defense would pull funding from pilot training when it has so many other bullsh** programs like DEI. It is unclear how this was achieved. A reprogramming this large usually requires the staff of both the House and Senate to be informed.

It is impossible to evaluate the claim without an official response. It is impossible to evaluate the impact of this on flight training or overall readiness. There is no reason for doubting the email, despite the lack of candor in the replies and the borderline hostile tone.

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