Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Citing sequestration uncertainties, Army stops officer transfers into flight school at Fort Rucker

The Army is suspending its aviation branch transfer panels indefinitely, a move that stops officers from transferring into helicopter training at Fort Rucker.

Army Times is reporting the move was made due to the uncertainties over sequestration, the across-the-board cuts that are slicing some $46 billion from the Department of Defense this fiscal year. Suspending the transfer panels effectively stops new student pilots from starting at the Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, the headquarters for Army aviation.

Fort Rucker is looking at losing some 500 student pilots and 37,000 hours of aviation training due to sequestration cutbacks. Officials said they stopped transfers until it could be determined how many spaces were available.

The transfer panels, which normally meets in April and October, would have considered five officer transfers this session, Army Times reports. Those soldiers come from ROTC units, Officer's Candidate School, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The Army said the applications will be reconsidered at a later time.

The move comes just weeks after a visit by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno.

Odierno toured Rucker's different training facilities, held briefings and met with students from the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College and flight school. He said while Fort Rucker was important to the Army, sequestration's cutbacks reached into all corners.

"If we don't sustain Fort Rucker, we will lose our readiness for our aviation capabilities. If we have to reduce it, we will try to mitigate that as much as we can," he said.

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