By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
Most Hardin County residents are aware of changes at Fort Knox, but unless they actually work on the installation, they may not be aware of how extensive the changes have been.
Another change is coming in the form of a “transformation” underway at the 11th Aviation Command, headquartered at Fort Knox. The Apache helicopters that are assigned to the 8th Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment will be leaving Fort Knox and replaced by Black Hawk helicopters.
Although the average person driving down 31W may not be able to discern the difference between the choppers when seen in flight, according to Brig. Gen. Troy Kok, commander of the 11th, there are significant differences and by moving to Black Hawks, the unit will become more flexible.
“Apaches are used for killing or a display of force,” he said.
“Black Hawks, on the other hand, provide serious lift, which means they can carry people, supplies or equipment.”
Simplified, Apaches are for combat and Black Hawks are for life-saving and life-sustaining missions.
“We are a more functional unit with Black Hawks,” Kok said.
When the transformation of Army Reserve Aviation is complete, all reserve units will lose Apaches, which will be assigned to active component or National Guard units, which makes sense because they are the ones with combat missions, the commander explained.
“For what we do, how we fall into the big picture, it’s just not there with the Apaches; the utility is much greater with Black Hawks.”
The Army is looking hard at cost savings and right-sizing. With the impending drawdown, many things are being reviewed and many questions are still on the table, Kok added. Attack helicopters are expensive to operate, so it’s essential to have the right numbers: What is the right size? How many combat aviation brigades do we really need?
“For every one hour of flight time in an Apache, we get two hours in a Black Hawk,” Kok said. “It’s just a more effective use of resource dollars.”
With the aircraft changes come other changes. The Apache helicopters only seat two pilots; crew chiefs operate outside the craft on takeoffs and landings. On Black Hawks, however, the crew chiefs fly along, which they are excited about. There are system differences between the two as well, so the electronic specialists will need training.
“The transformation isn’t just about equipment changes,” Kok said. “Everything about the culture will be changing.”
Because there are different systems, some (military occupational specialties) will have to convert, but leadership is staying ahead of the training requirements to ensure the staff gets the school slots they will need to accomplish those conversions.
Another change coming to Fort Knox will be Cadet Command’s consolidation of ROTC summer training. Those cadets in the Leader’s Training Course and the Leader Development and Assessment Course will benefit from the presence of the Black Hawks, Kok said. The aircraft stimulates excitement and retention with the cadets, but the pilots will also benefit.
“It’s a mutual training scenario,” he explained. “Their requirements help us because my guys need to provide lift. It’s a symbiotic relationship. It’s much more meaningful to do live missions than just ‘punching holes in the sky.’”