Five Apache Helicopters Pulled from National Guard Unit

AH-64 Apache

Five Apache helicopters have been removed from Johnstown National Guard hangars and reassigned to active duty Army units.

The remaining 11 Apaches stationed at the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport facility are scheduled for reassignment by May 31.

President Barack Obama vetoed a bill Thursday that included an amendment to delay the May action for at least a month.

"It does appear that five Apaches have left," Cambria County Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder said Thursday. "There is nothing more scheduled to leave with this first group."

In all, 48 National Guard Apaches across the country are now assigned to active-duty Army units, Lengenfelder said.

Earlier this month, Congress passed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, provision prohibiting further Apache transfers out of the National Guard until Congress can review recommendations from the National Commission on the Future of the Army, concerning the roles and structure of the Army.

But Thursday afternoon, Obama vetoed the sweeping $612 billion defense policy bill, citing objections over how the measure is funded, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, supported the bill and the amendment to delay the helicopter reassignment. He previously introduced the Preserving National Guard Combat Readiness Act of 2015 to temporarily prevent removing Apaches from the 1-104th.

Lengenfelder is a member of the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority. A retired Air Force colonel, he updated the authority on the defense moves this week, stressing the strategic importance of National Guard helicopters.

"The Army would be hard pressed to justify removing them," Lengenfelder said.

Despite losing five Apaches, there is the same number of aircraft in the National Guard hangars as this time last year, Lengenfelder pointed out.

"Last spring, we got five Blackhawks," he said.

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