News: Army, Air Force conduct load training
Story by Sgt. Jonathan Thibault
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Fort Carson soldiers and airmen from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., made rapid-deployment load training look as easy as stacking children's blocks, during a joint exercise at Colorado Springs Airport, Jan. 14-16.
Soldiers from 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team and 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, both from 4th Infantry Division, participated with the Air Force in a joint exercise to improve communication efforts and familiarize them with each other's military equipment.
"The purpose of the training is to better prepare 4th Infantry Division assets, and match them to the Air Force assets," said Air Force Lt. Col. Gerry Hinderberger, air mobility liaison, aligned with 4th ID. "We have not practiced these functions domestically in over a decade. People can mission-plan all day long, but actually doing it is where they find the flaws and make improvements. This training does just that for both the Army and Air Force."
The training consisted of preparing and loading unique pieces of military equipment on an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III. Soldiers with 3rd ABCT learned how to load and unload an M1A2 Abrams tank and an M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle.
"The training provided simple, but needed, familiarity to tank commanders, such as getting used to driving up the ramp of the C-17," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Micah Amman, aviation officer, 3rd ABCT. "It feels much steeper to the driver, and can make them nervous if they've never done it before. Also, the training allowed us to help our Air Force counterparts be more efficient in how to load armored vehicles onto their aircraft."
The soldiers' training was geared toward their Global Response Force mission, which allows them to respond anywhere in the world at a moment's notice.
"First, it helps us train the basics with regards to deployment readiness. Second, it's advantageous to both the Army and Air Force in terms of creating common procedures. Third, it's an opportunity to build relationships with all the other entities that help support our GRF mission," said Lt. Col. Jeremy Wilson, commander, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd ABCT.
Fourth CAB soldiers learned how to load and unload two UH-60 Black Hawks, which made their aircrews more deployment ready and even more team-oriented.
"It's great training for all parties involved, when you get to learn how to load specialized equipment that you don't work with daily," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Gathright, mobility officer, 4th CAB. "It takes more planning for these types of equipment. This training allowed us to do it slowly and safely."
Gathright said this was a first for some of the aircrews in the unit and gave them a unique opportunity.
"This exercise gave them training that they mostly get during deployments, in which they would have a time crunch," said Gathright. "The soldiers got to work with the Air Force to learn how to properly load their equipment. So if they have to do it during a deployment, it will be second nature."
The training provided aircrews with new skills that will help them the next time they deploy.
"Most of our aircrews have never loaded an aircraft onto another aircraft," said Staff Sgt. David Workman, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer, 4th CAB. "The exercise taught them how long it takes to fold the helicopter, load and unload the helicopter, and how to set up to be mission ready after being unloaded. I wish we could do more training like this, because it gives the soldiers a clear view of the right and wrong way to do these tasks."
Air Force members were already efficient in loading, but still found the training helpful.
"Everyone from the Air Force side is qualified to load these types of equipment, but we have young airmen, and we want to train them to the next level," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Turner, senior loadmaster, 21st Airlift Squadron, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "This is outstanding training, because it makes our loadmasters more confident to better prepare them for more threatening environments, such as the ones found during deployments. We get to teach the Army what we are looking for, and they get to teach us about their equipment, which strengthens our joint service bond."