Deploying Incomplete Units to Afghanistan Hurts Readiness
Members of Congress expressed concern Wednesday that U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan can only be maintained by deploying incomplete units -- a practice that is eroding readiness, according to an Army general.
 
Since 2015, U.S. Army combat aviation brigades have been deploying to the country without their aircraft maintainers, House Armed Service Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said at a subcommittee hearing to discuss aviation readiness.
 
"And so what do those maintainers do when they are left here in the states when their aircraft and their pilots are in Afghanistan?" Thornberry asked Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
 
"Sir, they are not doing a whole lot of aviation maintenance," Mangum said.
 
"And I think your point is, as I understand it, that does not help readiness when you have important maintainers without aircraft to work on," Thornberry said.
"No sir. We are building a deficit of experience and expertise in our formation as a result," Mangum said.
 
Instead of unit personnel, the U.S. military depends on civilian contractors to maintain the helicopters -- individuals that are not counted as part of the total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
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