The 1-108th and the Army Aviation Support Facility # 2 located at the Salina Regional Airport in Salina will be integrating new aircraft into their fleet, replacing approximately 80 percent of their current fleet of helicopters with the latest model.
Built in 2013, the UH-60M Model will replace the 35-year-old UH-60A models allowing for numerous benefits for the Soldiers who utilize these aircraft in combat air assault training and deployments. Among the modernization of equipment, Soldiers will be experiencing advancements in electronics and communications, a full autopilot that allows for greater safety in landing in low visibility areas and a decrease in maintenance requirements.
“The decrease in maintenance requirements allows for lower operating costs and the added safety features will create a better scenario for the crew operating the aircraft” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jason Garr. “The UH-60M model provides greater situational awareness to the crew not only of how the aircraft is operating but also about the battle space in which it is operating. Improved moving map displays and more advanced communication equipment bring greater fidelity to a data rich tactical environment.”
The 108th in Salina is comprised of nearly 100 National Guard personnel. Approximately 27 of these individuals are employed as full-time Army National Guard who maintain the rotary wing aircraft, as well as manage a 12-month air crew training program that involves academic, oral, flight and written evaluations. These Soldiers have been deploying to places like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait since 1998 and provide a wealth of knowledge-based experiences to their fellow service members in preparation for future deployments.
“The Kansas National Guard employs over 100 fulltime Soldiers and Airmen in the area,” said LTC Richard Fisher, Great Plains Joint Training Center executive officer. “In addition, thousands of service-members come to train at the GPJTC, Smoky Hill Weapons Range, Kansas Army National Guard Training Center and Kansas Regional Training Institute each year. Alongside our world-class training venues, we have a very supportive community in Salina, which helps us stay on the radar at a time when many units are realizing cuts in training and personnel.”
The Smoky Hill Weapons Range is located less than 10 nautical miles from the Salina Regional Airport which allows units basing at the airport to spend more time training over the range and less time traveling to it. It is the largest and busiest National Guard Range in the nation encompassing more than 51 square miles with more than 100 tactical targets.
The Kansas Army National Guard Training Center (KSTC) offers a variety of skills training to service members by providing billeting, training support, weapons ranges, training areas and for the Department of Defense (DoD ), Kansas National Guard (KSNG), federal, state, and local government agencies.
Salinans will recall Canadian tactical fighter squadrons have spent a considerable amount of time in Salina due to assets like the weapons range, available hangar space at the airport and a supportive citizenry and business community.
The Kansas Regional Training Institute is home to ordnance, military occupational skill and additional skill identifier, officer candidate school and noncommissioned officer education system training for the Army National Guard, Army Reserve and Active Component for a nine-state region.
Ensuring that service members are able to live, work and train in a community with an active and passionate population of military-friendly citizens is crucial to the economic development of the Salina area. National Guard personnel and their families provide a wealth of valuable commodities such as strong work ethics, trusted core values and dedication to prosperity. When Salina dedicates a portion of its resources to military affairs, it affirms that the community is standing behind those who serve our state and our nation
“The Army and the Air National Guard are a vital part of our community,” said Tim Rogers, A.A.E., Salina Airport Authority executive director. “The military payroll in the Salina area exceeds $6 million. The impact from training exceeds $5 million to this community.”
Salina will be positively impacted by the changes occurring within the 108th by new training missions. As these service members train to assist those across Kansas and the nation, Salina will be ready to support their mission through programs such as the Patriot Business Program and Emergency relief fund made possible by the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council.
Story by: Melissa McCoy / Salina Airport Authority