NM CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION News:
WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham, Steve Pearce and Ben Ray Luján have announced that they are urging the Air Force to transfer legacy HH-60G PAVE Hawk combat search-and-rescue helicopters to the N.M. Air National Guard when the Air Force fields the new HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter at Kirtland Air Force Base.
The leadership of the 58th Special Operations Wing (SOW) at Kirtland has told the delegation that they anticipate that the transition from the PAVE Hawk to the Combat Rescue Helicopter will cause a shortage of flight instructors. And, because the wing may soon train in up to four different helicopters at once, it could face challenges finding enough hangar space and classrooms in which to train combat rescue airmen.
In a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the lawmakers wrote that moving the PAVE Hawk helicopters to the 150th Special Operations Wing – under the N.M. National Guard “Tacos” – would help the 58th SOW address the shortage of manpower and hangar and training space, while also providing the Tacos with aircraft of its own to operate.
The Tacos have operated in association with the 58th SOW for several years but have not had a flying mission of their own since 2010. The lawmakers reminded Wilson that, during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, she agreed that she would like to see the Tacos back in a flying mission.
Additionally, the lawmakers wrote, the transfer would satisfy one of the Air National Guard’s goals of ensuring that each state has a fully equipped flying squadron.
“We are fully confident that the New Mexico Air National Guard can provide quality, timely, and cost-effective solutions with its available personnel and infrastructure,” the lawmakers wrote. “As you look at the feasibility of this transfer, you will find the 150th SOW has the infrastructure to support the HH-60G and, with a minimal increase in authorized personnel, can support training and maintenance independent of the airframe. As you know, the New Mexico Air National Guard has a long legacy of service to our nation…. Transferring the HH-60G mission to the NMANG will serve as a force multiplier and continue the important mission of training combat rescue airman. We strongly urge you to consider assigning the HH-60G mission to the NMANG.”
A copy of the letter can be found here.