WASHINGTON – A command investigation into the use of D.C. National Guard helicopters in and around the District of Columbia on June 1, 2020 in response to civil unrest uncovered several organizational, resource, and oversight shortcomings.
The Army Regulation 15-6 investigation was initiated in response to reports that a D.C. National Guard Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopter hovered low over a crowd near the Capitol One Arena on the night of June 1, 2020.
Inspector General oversight of the command investigation concluded that the use of MEDEVAC helicopters was not prohibited by Federal law or policy or Army regulation; there was a systematic lack of understanding regarding the employment and command and control of helicopters during civil disturbance operations; and the decisions to use the helicopters in support of the civil disturbance operations were reasonable given the emergent nature of the situation.
Recommendations resulting from the investigation include a review of Army regulatory guidance to ensure aviation support to civil disturbance operations is appropriately addressed. Additionally, the Army immediately began implementing corrective actions related to the planning, training, equipping, command and control, oversight, and orders processes for the integration of D.C. National Guard aviation assets into civil disturbance operations.
“Effective support to civil authorities in these situations hinges on clear understanding of the mission, capability and command and control of all assets and personnel,” said the Honorable John E. Whitley, Acting Secretary of the Army. “The National Guard is uniquely qualified to assist civil authorities; I am proud of the support they provided this nation over the past year. We are refining our regulations to ensure their success in the future.”
The investigation focused on whether any aircraft in question flew at inappropriately low altitudes, whether they adhered to applicable safety standards and procedures while in flight, and whether the aircraft were utilized for purposes of crowd dispersal. The investigation also explored whether aircraft bearing Red Cross markings were improperly or inappropriately employed to support D.C. National Guard civil disturbance operations.
The command investigation reviewed all available evidence, to include Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight data, and identified one helicopter that hovered below 100 feet near a crowd in the vicinity of 5th and E Streets, NW. Senior Army Aviation subject matter experts and the Inspector General staff also reviewed the evidence collected regarding the incident—including crewmember flight training records, pre-flight mission preparation, FAA flight recordings, videos and photographs of the event, as well as statements by the aircrew.
Headquarters, Department of the Army and the D.C. National Guard immediately began implementing recommendations and lessons learned. Changes to training, organization, policy, and doctrine were or are being adopted, including the use of a formal approval process and concept of operation submission requirements for Army aviation missions in the capital region.
For additional information, contact Maj. Jackie Wren, U.S. Army Office of Public Affairs Office at 703-695-0378 firstname.lastname@example.org.