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Saturday, November 25, 2000

Reserves to get
first copter unit

Hawaii will eventually have
eight Black Hawks, plus pilots
and about 150 soldiers
for air crews

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Pacific Army Reserve will get its first helicopter unit and a new aviation support company of about 150 soldiers.

Lt. Col. Howard Sugai, Army Reserve spokesman, said Hawaii has never had helicopters. All of the reserve's helicopters are currently with the Hawaii Army National Guard headquartered at Wheeler Army Air Field and on the Big Island at Lyman Field.

Eight medium-lift Black Hawks are projected in this year's defense authorization law under a $90 million appropriation. An additional 24 are planned for units in Hawaii, Florida and California.

The Army Reserve units will be new ones and probably will not be activated for two years, giving reserve officials time to recruit and train pilots and air crews.

Sugai said current plans call for Hawaii to get eight Black Hawks, but he did not know if the reserve will be getting them all at one time.

Although the federal budget contains money to build or buy a Florida Army Reserve aviation facility, there are no funds for a new facility in the islands. The California unit will be located at an old Air Force base.

Sugai said there is the possibility of the Army Reserve moving into the Wheeler hangars now used by the Hawaii Army National Guard.

Capt. Chuck Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman, said the Army Guard's master plan does call for the relocation of its 14 CH-47 heavy-lift Chinook helicopters to the guard's new facilities at the old Barbers Point Naval Air Station within the next five years.

"The idea is to be able to fly soldiers in from the neighbor islands on C-130 transports and then load them onto the Chinooks for training," Anthony said.

The only Black Hawks in the Hawaii Guard belong to an air ambulance unit on the Big Island. There are now four Black Hawks assigned to the unit, with another four to be added sometime next year. Five smaller OH-58 observation copters also are part of the Big Island's aviation unit.

Black Hawks are able to transport equipment or a team of 11 soldiers.

In peacetime, they are being used by the 25th Infantry Division to provide air ambulance service on Oahu by a special arrangement with the state.

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