Train as you fight: 1st AD Sust. Bde. conducts hands-on sling load training
By Wendy Brown, Fort Bliss Bugle Managing Editor:
(El Paso, Texas, March. 16, 2017) BIGGS ARMY AIRFIELD, Texas – One after the other, groups of Soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade, ran out to a Conex box here Friday for sling load training.
Two Soldiers held a ladder and stayed below while four, and sometimes five, Soldiers climbed up and hooked the box to a CH-47 Chinook hovering a few feet from their heads. Then, back down the ladder they went, and the Soldiers all linked arms to support each other as they ran away from the box and the helicopter. A hovering CH-47 can produce a downwash of up to 94 mph 50 feet away from the helicopter, according to one Army study.
When everyone was safely out of the way, the helicopter briefly lifted up the empty box and put it back down for another round. Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st AD, assisted with the training.
Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Phipps, assigned to HHC, STB, 1st AD Sust. Bde., said organizers relied on the old Army standard of “train as you fight” when putting together the training for the brigade’s 18-member sling-load team.
“Everything we do, if we have the capability on post, we like to implement (elements of reality) to make sure our guys are better prepared for a combat situation,” Phipps said. “It’s going to be fast and expedient downrange, so we want to make sure that we’re doing our part to support the warfighter.”
The training included one day of classroom training, another day of rigging training and one day of the hands-on training on the airfield, Phipps said.
In addition to the Conex box, the Soldiers also practiced hooking up a 1,500-pound load of meals ready to eat to the Chinook. Three at a time, the Soldiers attached the load’s netting to the bottom of the helicopter and quickly got out of the way so the helicopter could lift it up.
Cpl. Andres Rios, assigned to HHC, STB, 1st AD Sust. Bde., said brigade officials pulled Soldiers from different military occupational specialties for the sling load team, and he worked as a mechanic before joining the team about six months ago. Others are ammo and supply specialists.
Rios said he has participated in the training before, and he can’t help but find the training realistic every time the helicopter flies over his head.
“It’s the bird coming at you for me,” Rios said. “… After the initial gust of wind, you stay calm and do everything right.”
Sgt. Maj. Gavine Roache, sergeant major, Support Operations, 1st AD Sust. Bde., observed the training to ensure the Soldiers were doing everything safely.
An experienced sling loader, Roache said sling loading is an important option for commanders.
“Sling load training is important because it gives the commander a second option for resupply and it exposes less people to the risk of (improvised explosive device) and all those enemy actions that produce casualties,” Roache said. “It’s by far the quickest way to get supplies to our units out there in theater.”
For a few members of the team, the training was the first time they had participated in hands-on sling load training.
Pvt. Kwasi Kwarteng, assigned to HHC, STB, 1st AD Sust. Bde., said he had a healthy fear of standing right below a hovering Chinook, but used his Army training to face that fear and in the end found it exciting and fun.
“It was a good experience,” Kwarteng said. “Doing hands-on training, facing risk like this and doing something to support the Army with transportation and everything, that’s the exciting thing about it.”
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