News: Training under pressure
Story by Sgt. Angela Parady
CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. - A training exercise became a real life situation, July 29, when range control made a call to Aviators from Alpha Company 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment to help extinguish a fire at one of the ranges at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center.
Task Force Aviation is being validated on training to ensure they are ready for any mission they will face during their deployment to Kosovo with South Carolina’s 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
Sunday’s training schedule included using Bambi buckets, and sling loading HMMWV’s. A Bambi bucket is a device that attaches to a helicopter and can hold up to 800 gallons of water or foam. Each bucket has a release button that is operated by Aviators onboard the helicopter when they are in position to suppress or extinguish a fire.
CW4 Sean Reynolds and CW2 Brad C. Shealy were both flying the UH-60 Black Hawk to strengthen their profeciency with the Bambi bucket. They saw the smoke from the range fire and checked in with higher headquarters.
Range control put in a request for assistance to knock down the fires, while three to four fire trucks worked putting out the fire on the ground, said Shealy, aviation safety officer for the 149th.
Reynolds is the standardization pilot for the 149th. He is responsible for ensuring that every training mission is done according to standard operating procedures and meet all the regulations and guidelines.
“The training goal is to touch upon everything we anticipate in KFOR with the intention of being certified,” said Reynolds. “But more importantly, my team needs to know how to do it so we can get the mission done. That is one of the insurance policies we have set for ourselves.”
Sunday was Shealy’s first experience combating a live fire using the Bambi bucket.
“The real experience is always different,” said Shealy. “We have to deal with the smoke, make the determination of where to drop the water, which this time range control specified, and it takes on a different tone.”
Reynolds said that nearly half his Aviators experienced using the Bambi buckets prior to arriving at Camp Atterbury.
“Range control had thought this could be a possibility,” said Reynolds, a native of Charleston. “They approached me and asked if we could do it, should it happen. I answered, absolutely.”
The Bambi bucket that Reynolds and Shealy attached to their Black Hawk holds about 860 gallons of water, and emptied it over the range fire about 25 times Sunday until the fire was under control.
While Reynolds and his Aviators worked in conjunction with Camp Atterbury’s Fire Department, another aviation crew prepared to work with soldiers of the 1st Batallion, 118th Infantry to conduct sling load operations.
Sling loading involves attaching heavy equipment, such as food, supplies, weapon systems and vehicles to an aircraft for transport. There are specific hook up procedures, safety procedures and cargo weight management capabilities based on different aircraft. The purpose is to provide a timely resupply to units in the field, said Reynolds.
The procedure for sling load operations is standardized, but it still requires communication between the troops on the ground and the Aviators in the air. The task force supports requests from different units, making efficient and effective communication necessary for mission completion.
“The Army is one big team, and the aviation piece can’t do the mission by themselves,” said Reynolds. “The infantry piece can’t do the mission by themselves. Without the combined effort we could not accomplish these missions, so you really have to look at it as a cooperative training event.”
Shealy echoed Reynold’s sentiment. “While every training exercise is based on a real life event or situation, and standard operating procedures exist, not everything is going to work perfectly 100 percent of the time.”
“Communication is always important,” said Shealy. “No matter how standardized things are you always have variables to be factored in. We all have to be on the same sheet of music. Communication, is key to the aviation field.”