COLUMBUS, Miss. (Army News Service, Dec. 11, 2006) - Gen. Richard A. Cody, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, and Joe RedCloud, a chief of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Lakota Nation, accepted the Army's first Lakota Light Utility Helicopter, UH-72A, in a ceremony here today.
"The Light Utility Helicopter - from concept development to material fielding to rapid deployment - is not only serving as a catalyst for change across the Army, it is also accelerating the speed of Army aviation modernization and integration with other services and government agencies," said Cody.
The Army has a long-standing tradition of using American Indian names, such as terms, tribes and chiefs for its helicopters. In the case of the Lakota aircraft, the linkage is between the Lakota legacy as stalwart defenders of their homeland and the nature of the aircraft's intended domestic missions.
"We're pleased that you honor our tribe by naming this helicopter Lakota. You are not only honoring our past, you are recognizing that we are still here, joint partners in the heritage of the promise of America." RedCloud told the audience.
The fielding of the LUH is part of an ongoing Army-level effort to transform its aviation capability through the deliberate reinvestment of funds from the canceled 2004 Comanche program.
The Army National Guard will receive the majority of the 322 new aircraft. Initial aircraft will be sent to the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. for medical evacuation missions in January 2007. The UH-72A Lakotas will replace UH-60 Black Hawks, which will be transferred to the National Guard for operational missions.
"The Lakota heralds a new beginning for our Army and for our communities across every state," said Cody. "It is our nation's responsibility and the Army's duty to provide our National Guard Soldiers with the tools they need to respond fully and rapidly to homeland security missions and national disasters.
"This exceptional platform will fly for years to come in America's skies. It is an aircraft we needed and we are proud to see it take flight," he said.
The UH-72A is a commercial aircraft designed to conduct light general support tasks in permissive, non-combat environments. Those tasks include civil search and rescue, personnel recovery, evacuation, counter-drug and limited civil command and control operations in the conduct of Homeland Security.
(Downie serves with the Office of the Chief Army Public Affairs, Henry with Army Aviation and Missile Command.)