KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – The packing process of a sling load will never be on an adrenaline junkie's list of things to do, but hooking a load to a helicopter hovering 150 feet in the air might.
Soldiers with Company A, 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, are supporting their fellow soldiers through sling load missions.
“A lot of it is on the fly,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Payton, the non-commissioned officer in charge of sling load operations. “It all depends on the aircraft’s schedule. Some are last minute, and some are planned out a week in advance. It’s a rush.”
“For me it’s about the adrenalin,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Lewis, a supply sergeant who is a sling load inspector. “There’s something about when the helicopters come in, and I stop everything and just go off instincts.”
“We are supplying [soldiers] in Lam, Chenar and Darishan,” Payton said. “They can’t be reached by ground, so all their supplies have to come in by air.”
Sling loads are transported by helicopters. A helicopter with a cord and hook flies in, a soldier will grab the hook, attach it to what is being transported and then the helicopter will fly off to the receiving destination.
“[We] figure out the weight [of the load] and what type of aircraft is going to come pick it up, because it has to be compatible with the aircraft,” Payton said. “Depending on what [is being moved], we determine what kind of equipment is going to be used according to the [field manuals], then we stage it, the aircraft comes in, hooks it up and they take off.”
Though there are three schools needed to be certified: sling load inspector certification course, air assault school and pathfinder school, a soldier does not necessarily need to be certified to help with the sling load.
“We try to get soldiers out there. They aren’t qualified to inspect loads, but they can do everything else,” Payton said. “They can rig it, and they can hook it up. We are right there with them to make sure everything’s safe.”
“I helped rig up a Humvee,” said Pfc. Devryann Robertson, an ammunitions specialist with Company A. “We had to make sure that all the glass was taped up so that if it breaks during the lift, it won’t fly off and hurt anyone. We had to make sure everything was secure. That way, when the [helicopter] lifted it, it would be safe. I’ve learned a lot.”
“Having additional soldiers trained on helping with sling loads is important so supplies can get out to the soldiers who really need it,” Payton said.
“[It gives] me great joy to know we are actually helping those guys out there that are living rough,” Lewis said. “We work hand-in-hand with each other. They do their job. I do my job. Everybody is happy, and the Army is successful.”
This work, Rough Riders support by sling loading supplies, by SSG Ruth Pagan, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.