The US Army has ordered the grounding of all Army aviators not involved in critical missions following two recent helicopter crashes that left 12 soldiers dead. The order from Army Chief of Staff James McConville grounds them "until they complete the required training," according to the Army.
The safety stand down comes after Thursday's mid-air collision of two AH-64 Apache helicopters near Fort Wainwright, Alaska, which killed three soldiers and wounded another. Nine soldiers were killed when two HH-60 Blackhawks collided during routine night training near Fort Campbell, Kentucky last month.
"The incidents are under investigation, but there is no indication of any pattern," said a spokesperson for the US Army. The decision to ground non-critical aviators was made out of an abundance of caution while investigations continue into these tragic events.
During this time, grounded pilots will undergo additional training to ensure future mission readiness and adherence to safety protocols. As stated by General McConville: "Our primary concern remains the safety and well-being of our servicemen and women."
Families affected by these tragedies have been receiving support from their respective military communities as well as local organizations dedicated to helping those impacted by loss or injury in service-related accidents.
"Every soldier lost is a tragedy felt deeply within our ranks," said Colonel Johnathan Price at Fort Campbell. "We will work tirelessly with investigators to determine what happened so we can prevent similar incidents in the future."
As more details emerge regarding these accidents, officials hope that implementing further education on aviation protocol will minimize potential risks for other servicemen and women serving in both domestic and international operations.
"We take every accident seriously," added General McConville during an official statement addressing these incidents. "Each one represents a devastating blow to our force – physically, emotionally, spiritually – because behind every uniform stands someone's son or daughter who volunteered proudly."