May 23, 2024

The US Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker Novosel, AL, may have had as much as $130 million of its $140 million training budget taken away, resulting in the cancellation of training for US helicopter pilots for the foreseeable future. Why did this happen? If the source is to be believed, and as I show later, there is no reason to doubt the source, DOD directed that training for Army helicopter pilots cease so the money could fill gaps in the recently passed Israel-Taiwan-Ukraine foreign aid package. 


The story broke from two sources. On “X,” formerly known as Twitter, a training team leader posted an email to his(?) team giving them the bad news.


BLUF (short for “bottom line up front”): Funds have been pulled from our flying Hour Program, we will be without funds to continue flying FSXXI as soon as 01May. Our funds have been pulled by DOD for allocation to Ukraine and other foreign obligations.

An Instagram account, terminalcwo, has more details and some jargon translated. It obviously relies heavily on the original email, but the writer claims to have verified the story and developed some plan details from his own sources.

On May 1, USAACE will be without funds to continue Flight School XXI. The funds have been allocated to “Ukraine and other foreign obligations” according to official messaging. There is currently a plan of action at G3 Air that may delay this until May 15. There are exceptions to this:

– Graduate POl (i.e. D/1-14*h) will continue to fly.
– Flight School IERW FMS students will continue to fly. Their funding has been pre-paid by host countries.
– Students will continue to go through Academics at Merryman.
– LCT periods will continue.

While training has been discontinued, students will be required to continue reporting to the flight line for accountability. There will be no A940/ATP training flights. Dept of Army Civilians and contractors will continue to be paid without furlough.

It’s unknown how long training will be discontinued. The Army will likely move money around to continue training before the end of the fiscal year, but this is speculation. Several officials are also dismissing the significance of the school shutting down for new pilots due to the already high number of WO1s and LTs in the force.

The lack of funding follows on the heels of an unprecedented number of aviation mishaps in FY23. Defense News wrote, “Fiscal 2023 marked the highest death rate for Army soldiers since the U.S. withdrew from Iraq in 2011, with a total of 14 dead across 10 accidents, formally known as Class A mishaps, meaning accidents that result in the loss of life or the loss of equipment totaling more than $2.5 million.”


I don’t like caveating stories up front, but in this case, I think it is necessary. So far, there seems to be exactly one source for the story, and I don’t like single-source stories. But the email seemed crazy enough that it should be debunked if it was false, and people should be made aware if it was true. So today, I called the public affairs officer at Fort Rucker Novosel. I dropped LTC Andy Thaggard a polite note asking some pretty easy and non-adversarial questions and gave him a copy of the email.


1. Does the email accurately portray the training situation at Fort Novosel?

2. Has any flight training been ordered to be canceled or suspended after May 1?

3. If so, was the decision made by AVNCOE or by higher headquarters?

4. If scheduled training has been canceled, what impact will that have on providing trained aviators to the field force?

To which I got this informative answer:

The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence is training world-class Army combat helicopter pilots today, just as we did yesterday, and will continue to do so until directed to stop.  

 Any budget questions will be fielded by the Army’s Office of Public Affairs.

My initial take was that this was a “yes.” But, being cautious, I followed his advice and asked the Department of the Army Public Affairs the same question.

This is how Mr. Jason Waggoner, a Department of the Army civilian, responded:


Hi Bill, Below is the response to you query. You can attribute to me if you like. “The Army will continue to train pilots at Fort Novosel as scheduled.”

The typo is not mine. 

From the tone, I took it that the answer was “yes.” Note the “as scheduled” doesn’t clarify what schedule he’s talking about. It would be easy to say if any part of this email was false. 

Charitably speaking, this is insane. It seems utterly bizarre that the Department of Defense, which is awash in bullsh** programs like DEI, elected to pull funds from pilot training. What is even more unclear is how this was accomplished. A reprogramming of this size usually requires informing House and Senate staff. 

Without official comment, evaluating the claim that the training funds were stripped to fund one of the three foreign aid bills is impossible. Evaluating the impact on flight training and overall readiness is also impossible. However, given the lack of candor and borderline hostility of the responses, there is no reason to doubt the email. 

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