Measure Urging Congress to Halt Transfer of Apache Helicopters Clears Committee

Harrisburg - June 16 - The state Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee approved a Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria) resolution today calling on Congress to prohibit the transfer of Apache helicopters from Johnstown into active duty Army until a force structure analysis is completed.

"The Army would do well to examine the efficacy of moving the Apache helicopters from Johnstown until further study is done," Wozniak said.  "The unit is well established at the airport, has a large economic footprint and is essential to our security."

Wozniak has joined with state Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria) and Rep. Frank Burns (D-Cambria) in seeking to stop the transfer of the 1-104th Attack Battalion and the repositioning of Pennsylvania Army National Guard units.  Barbin is a member of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

The National Commission on the Future of the Army is now studying active duty and National Guard force structuring alternatives.  The report is due in February 2016.

Wozniak said that it was important for the state legislature to make its sentiments clear about the restructuring of the National Guard components in the state because the National Defense Authorization Act is before the U.S. Senate and will be subject to a House-Senate conference in the near future. 

"There is so much uncertainty both in regard to the report on the structure of the Army and with the composition and positioning of Pennsylvania National Guard units that stopping the transfer of units now is the responsible thing to do," Barbin said.  "The unit in Johnstown is an active and important part of the local community and should stay here until Congress acts.

"As a member of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee I will strongly support this measure and be its champion when it is before the committee and the full House."

The 1-104th Attack Battalion has 24 units in its complement with a large portion of the helicopters positioned at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.

"The necessity of keeping the 104th at the airport is clear and our hope is that we can demonstrate to the Army of the need to keep the National Guard units in place until the final report is complete and for years after," Burns said. "The Johnstown-based unit is an essential part of the National Guard and now is based at a state-of-the-art facility.

Wozniak said that there are 350 part-time jobs at stake plus the economic impact of the stationing of the Johnstown unit is estimated at $45 million. 

"The unit is an economic driver that helps fuel the local economy," Wozniak said.  "It provides jobs and a boost in the local economy and the loss of the battalion would be a difficult pill for the region to swallow."

Barbin argued that the positioning of Guard units nearby is critical to national defense and is an essential element in responding to emergencies. 

"The Johnstown region is strategically located in relation to the Northeast corridor," Barbin said.  "This location puts units based here in position to respond to national security challenges but also help in emergencies."   

Senate Resolution 149, reported from committee today with a unanimous vote (11-0), also includes provisions relating to the deactivation of the Scranton-based 55th Armored  Brigade Combat Team and the overall National Guard force structure. 

Wozniak said that the maintenance of a robust National Guard is cost-effective and economically valuable. The training of a member of the National Guard costs about 15 percent of the total cost of training an active duty soldier. 

Barbin said that given that state guard units have been deployed recently, the economic and military sense of keeping an excellent unit locally-based has been demonstrated.

"The Army should examine the deployment record of local units to fully understand how they are able to move into combat-readiness quickly and at a fraction of the cost," Barbin said. 

The 1-104th was deployed in Afghanistan and the armored combat team was engaged overseas multiple times since Sept. 2001.

Wozniak said that he was hopeful that full Senate would vote on the resolution in the very near future.