Every time Army Col. John White flies the fast, powerful Apache helicopter, he's amazed — amazed that "the Army is paying me to do this."
"It's a great feeling to be able to do that," White said in a phone interview from Fort Hood, where he commands the 21st Cavalry Brigade.
White will have his final flight as an Army aviator Thursday, when he and other Apache aircrew members fly five of the combat-tested aircraft to Brownwood.
The 21st Cav will be deactivated in June 2015, and five Apaches are scheduled to arrive at the Brownwood airport at 9 a.m. Thursday on what's described as the "last" flight to Brownwood.
After a short stop at the Brownwood airport, the Apaches will continue on to Brady and return to Fort Hood.
The Apaches and their two-man crews are scheduled to be at the Brownwood airport for about 30 minutes "to shake hands, say thank you and snap a few photos next to the aircraft," White in an earlier email to Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes..
The 21st Cavalry Brigade is "the foremost collective trainer of today's newest and modest modernized attack and cavalry helicopter squadrons," according to www.army.mil/21cav.
"Everyone from local law enforcement to the citizens of the community made our job training soldiers and aviation units from both the U.S. Army and partner nations to execute combat operations an easy task," White told Haynes via email.
"The partnership that developed between Brownwood, the 21st Cavalry Brigade and III Corps is a relationship that demonstrates the patriotism of the citizens of Brownwood and the love you have for our soldiers and the nation."
White said he's not sure what's in his future.
The soldiers who serve in the 21st Cav are being reassigned to other units, and some of the the 21st Cav's Apaches will be "redistributed across the Army" and others will go to the factory for upgrades, White said.
Rather than entire units deploying to Fort Hood for training under the 21st Cav, White said, an Army team will travel to the posts where Apache units are based to provide training.
"It is going to be no more," White said of the 21st Cav. "The Brigade itself has made an amazing contribution to the Army. This will be my last flight. This will be the last time."