News: Lifeliners conduct sling load training
Story by Sgt. Leejay Lockhart
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Soldiers from the 372nd Inland Cargo Transfer Company, 129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, concluded a two-day Air Assault training mission June 26, at Fort Campbell. The purpose of the exercise was to further develop the company’s competency at providing logistical support through sling-load operations.
The Soldiers linked up with an aircrew from Company B, 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, which flew a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to the training site. After exiting the helicopter, the troops joined other members of their unit already on the ground and immediately went to work finishing sling-load preparations on two Humvees and a cargo bag.
The 372nd ICTC had a mix of Soldiers who had no previous experience conducting a sling-load mission along with Soldiers who had graduated from the Sabalauski Air Assault School and proved their proficiency in the task. The Soldiers with Air Assault qualifications took the lead and ensured everyone properly rigged the equipment.
Spc. Kyle J. Hennick, an Army cargo specialist and forklift operator with the 372nd ICTC, described his role as an Air Assault qualified Soldier, “The most important thing was inspecting the loads. That way we can tell if they’re correct loads and if they’re done correctly or not.”
He said they also needed to verify the Soldiers who had prepared the vehicles had properly taped the windows and lights for safety reasons.
After the Soldiers verified the loads with the aircrew, the helicopter ascended from the ground in a cacophony of blaring engines and rotors. It repositioned itself then descended close to the first vehicle, as it neared the ground its powerful rotors kicked up a whirlwind of dried grass and other debris.
Hovering feet above the field, the pilot and ground guide established contact and the Chinook carefully took position over the first Humvee. The Soldiers on the ground rushed to attach it to the helicopter. However, before they could connect the vehicle, a Soldier used a static probe to safely discharge any static electric charge that built up on the aircraft.
“Like they’re keeping the helicopter a foot over the troops to make sure they don’t come down any lower,” said Hennick, a native of Charles City, Iowa. “It’s a safety issue to have a ground guide, and it’s there for proper instructions.”
The Chinook, guided by the ground guide, gracefully moved in a triangular pattern lifting the vehicles and cargo box one at a time, lowering them back to the ground, and then moving on to the next item. As it moved around the field, Soldiers would reset at each item and prepare for the next repetition.
Making the training flow seamlessly took a great deal of preparation, said 1st. Lt. Matthew Jones, a transportation officer and platoon leader for the 372nd ICTC.
“We did a number of rehearsals," said Jones, a native of Schwab City, Texas. “First key leader walkthroughs. All the NCOs in the platoon went physically to the locations and saw it and talked through it and learned their jobs. The Soldiers had a [rehearsal of concept] drill so that they learned all the ins and outs of what was going to happen. Then my platoon sergeant made sure that everybody actually practiced rigging."
“None of them are going to have all the information they need 100 percent memorized, but going to Air Assault [school] they had an idea and they knew where to look to get information they had forgotten,” Jones continued. “So when they knew they were going to have sling loads, they got the proper [field manuals] and information and then that plus their recollection of how to do things, fell together perfect.”
At the conclusion of the training both the Soldiers and leaders expressed confidence in the quality of training.
“I think it was really great training especially with the Chinook and the variety of different things we had,” said Hennick. “I think we did a lot and everybody got enough rotations. Everybody filled each position at least once or twice.”
“Everybody did their job and did it exceptionally,” Jones stated with pride. “As a platoon most of the guys have never done this before, especially the ones who’ve never been to air assault school. The one’s who’ve been to air assault school they’ve did it once, and it’s been awhile, so it will just help them feel more confident that they actually do know what they’re supposed to be doing and if they’re called upon to do sling loads they’ll be confident to do that. They’ll deliver.”