'Unneeded' National Guard Aircraft Starring in Hurricane Sandy Response

WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two different aircraft the Pentagon says the nation no longer needs, but National Guard leaders and elected officials are fighting to keep in the Guard fleet, are playing a prominent role in the response to Hurricane Sandy.

One Florida Army Guard C-23 Sherpa delivered 6,500 pounds of Meals Ready to Eat from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Farmingdale, N.Y., over the weekend. And Monday, it transported disaster response experts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to New Jersey.

Meanwhile, C-27J Spartan aircraft and crews from the Maryland, Mississippi and Ohio Air National Guard have been transporting personnel and equipment to New York.

The C-23 and C-27J are small fixed-wing cargo planes capable of landing on runways that may prohibit other military aircraft. The C-23 has been in the Guard for more than 20 years; the C-27J for two years. Both also have seen duty overseas, where they have been praised for their flexibility, reliability and cost-efficiency.

Yet both are on the Pentagon chopping block.

The Army is scheduled this month to take both of the Florida Army Guard's C-23s and two aircraft from the Texas Army Guard. And the Air Force planned to divest the C-27J in its fiscal 2013 budget request.

Congress thought it put those plans on hold in the continuing resolution that currently funds the federal government through the end of March, but the Army is moving forward with its plans.

"This is a case where the Pentagon simply doesn't like small cargo aircraft, even if they demonstrate their value to the nation every time out," said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of the National Guard Association of the United States.

"The Army and the Air Force say these planes are unneeded, but there are thousands of ground troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan who would disagree, and now, so would tens of thousands of people in New Jersey and New York," he added. "But the Pentagon remains determined."

The Army's determination has caught the attention of the governors of Florida and Texas and some lawmakers.

Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., and Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, wrote President Barack Obama on Oct. 11 asking him to intervene.

In Congress, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., is asking colleagues to sign a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh requesting his "commitment to ensure that the C-23 fleet remains operational until a viable alternative is identified."

Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chair of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, is asking that the letter be signed and delivered to McHugh this week.

The Florida Army Guard Sherpa supporting Sandy relief flew missions in Iraq in 2004, 2007 and 2010. It also saw action during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, taking Florida Fish and Wildlife experts over the beaches of Florida's panhandle to spot encroaching oil slicks.

"We love supporting missions, especially when it is a humanitarian mission," said Chief Warrant Officer Joseph Langlois, who is monitoring the Sherpa mission from its unit's base in Brooksville, Fla., according to a Florida Guard release issued Monday.

About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by educating Congress on militia needs. Today, 134 years later, the militia is known as the National Guard, but NGAUS has the same mission.

SOURCE National Guard Association of the U.S.




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