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US army grounds all aviation units for training after fatal helicopter crashes

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The US army has grounded aviation units for training after 12 soldiers died in helicopter crashes in Alaska and Kentucky in the last month.

The suspension was effective immediately, with units being grounded until they complete the training, the army spokesperson Lt Col Terence Kelley said.

Training for active-duty units is to take place between 1 and 5 May. National guard and reserve units will have until 31 May to complete theirs.

“The move grounds all army aviators except those participating in critical missions until they complete the required training,” the army said.

Two army helicopters collided near Healy, in Alaska, on Thursday, killing three soldiers and injuring a fourth. The aircraft from the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, at Fort Wainwright were returning from training at the time of the crash, according to the army. The unit is part of the 11th Airborne Division, which is nicknamed the Arctic Angels.

Military investigators from Fort Novosel, in Alabama, were expected to arrive at the scene of the crash by Saturday, said John Pennell, a spokesperson for the US army in Alaska.

The army said on Thursday that two of the soldiers had died at the site and the third on the way to a hospital in Fairbanks. The injured soldier was taken to hospital and was in stable condition on Friday, Pennell said. The names of those killed were not immediately released.

“The safety of our aviators is our top priority, and this stand-down is an important step to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel,” the army’s chief of staff, Gen James McConville said.

The crash is the second involving military helicopters in Alaska this year. Two soldiers were injured when an Apache helicopter rolled after take-off from Talkeetna in February. The aircraft was one of four traveling from Fort Wainwright to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Anchorage.

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