News | May 17, 2017

Gimcheon staff helps retire aging warrior from the skies

By Tim Hoyle Disposition Services

Not all of the vehicles involved in the Army’s divestiture of excess items travel on wheels or tracks, some use rotors to fly through the air.

Recently, Defense Logistics Agency employees from the DLA Disposition Services site at Gimcheon, Korea, helped the Army’s 17th Cavalry get rid of 27 of its OH-58 Kiowa Warrior aircraft. The Kiowa Warrior is a single-engine, single-rotor armed reconnaissance vehicle generally used to support troops fighting on the ground. 

Area Manager Terry Harrington said the workload was a challenge with the increased turn-ins from the Yongsan Relocation and Land Partnership Plans, but noted the team there “is comprised of seasoned professionals that aren’t new to these types of challenges… without incorporating overtime or extra shifts.” He noted that Air Force Master Sgt. Kenneth Pugh, Gimcheon’s Property Management Branch chief, served as a project lead for the divestment working with Ronald Beach, chief of the Logistics Management Division for the Armed Scout Helicopter Project Office.

Contractors performed the required demilitarization of the helicopters with an excavator. Harrington said the disposal support representatives were “extremely meticulous” during their inspections of each Kiowa given the type of weapon system and the gravity of the effort.

“We held a series of Disp 101 courses (and supplemental tutorials) with the unit to ensure compliance and understanding of the procedure and requirements,” Harrington said. He also noted that the unit and Beach “lauded our efforts and offered kudos on our staunch professionalism.”

While happy about the team’s performance, Harrington said the long history of Kiowa aircraft and the integral role they played in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, made putting such  helicopters to rest disheartening.

“But the threat environment is changing rapidly and we must change with it,” Harrington said. As a former Air Force officer, he said he watched his service divest entire fleets of aircraft like the U2, “but the fiscal and operational benefits yielded by those decisions was bountiful. I completely understand.”  

According to the Army Acquisition Support Center’s website, the Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program was planned to keep the aircraft viable beyond fiscal 2025 while the Kiowa Warrior Wartime Replacement Aircraft program addressed attrition with delivery of new aircraft. Instead funding constraints drove the Army to re-evaluate and launch the Army Aviation Restructuring Initiative that included divestment of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.

A 2016 story from the Tennessee Army National Guard also reported that the Kiowa helicopter has been used continuously by the Army since its inception in 1969. It went to say the first batch of helicopters began arriving in Vietnam for use in the war between May and June. Ultimately, it said 2,200 would be built between 1966 and 1989.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Andrew Farrell, a master gunner for the OH-58D with the Tennessee Army National Guard was quoted in the story as saying the aircraft was "very reliable the entire time I've flown in it. It tends to always be available when nothing else is."