July 1, 1999 :
General Defends Apache Aviator Memo
WASHINGTON , USA (AP)
- The commander of the 24 Apache attack helicopters sent to Albania defended an internal memo in which he suggested pilots assigned to fly against Serb forces were undertrained and underequipped.
Brig. Gen. Richard Cody told members of a House Armed Services subcommittee on Thursday that his memo was ``an honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses.''
In the June 16 memo, intended for the incoming Army chief of staff, Cody complained that the first three weeks in Albania ``were painful and high risk.'' The document said that ``over 65 percent of assigned aviators had less than 500 hours'' of training, and not one was trained to use special goggles that would help with night flights.
None of the Apaches flew against Serb forces. But two crewmen were killed when two helicopters crashed in a night training exercise.
``I stand by the points and recommendations I made,'' he said at the hearing of the military readiness subcommittee.
Rep. Herbert Bateman, R-Va., the subcommittee chairman, thanked Cody for ``your professionalism and candor in imparting information no one wanted to receive.''
Cody told the subcommittee his e-mail memorandum, entitled ``Lessons Learned in Albania,'' was not intended for public consumption.
``The intent of my memorandum ... is to make a great Army even better,'' he said. It was intended for the incoming Army chief of staff, Eric K. Shinseki.
Cody emphasized that, once the helicopter crews received the on-site training they needed, they became proficient.
He blamed the lack of training of the aviators on the general decline of military readiness.
``Across the Army, we are seeing the results of many years of declining resources and resource constraints, in terms of funds for training and equipment.''
Col. Oliver H. Hunter IV, commander of an Apache unit sent to Albania from Illieshiem, Germany, told the subcommittee one reason the pilots lacked adequate training was because of German government restrictions on night flights.
Cody said that lack of preparation was of particular concern because of the geography of the region. ``This is the toughest terrain I've seen in 27 years, and I've been flying attack helicopters all over the world,'' he said.
During a break for a vote, Cody told reporters that, because of the publicity surrounding the Apache force, he felt like a sitting duck.
``Everyone knew exactly where we were. The Serbs knew where we were. They knew how far we could fly,'' he said.