JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The sound of a helicopter cuts through the clouds and rain as soldiers lie in wait for the choppers arrival. This is the ride that a group of combat engineers had been waiting for, the one that will deliver them to their objective where the real work begins.
Soldiers of the 571st Sapper Company had the opportunity to conduct an air insertion and extraction as part of their pre-deployment training on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Sept. 23.
With air support provided by the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, the combat engineers air assaulted into the Leschi Town training area on JBLM for part of their combat engineer training.
“We are conducting this training to ready ourselves for any mission we get handed in Afghanistan,” said Capt. James Perkins, commander, 571st Sapper Company. “We want to be versatile and not just train for route clearance. It is better for us to be trained in other combat skills rather than concentrate on one specifically.”
For one newly arriving senior noncommissioned officer, conducting an air assault mission was a new experience.
“In my career I have never done any air assault training like this as part of engineer training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Hastings. “This will definitely give our newer Soldiers confidence and teach them to work productively within their teams and squads.”
The helicopter ride would be the only time the Sappers could relax during the training event. Following the 20 minute transport, the 571st would spend three days of non-stop moving and patrolling.
“The training will be very demanding both physically and mentally,” said Hastings, a Chicago native. “This will be tough and we never know what is coming next. We will just move from one objective to another. But they will come together and by the end we will be better and build cohesion.”
Perkins said the sapper company is experiencing some growing pains as they lose veteran soldiers and gain new arrivals to the unit. However the training teaches newer soldiers tactics and techniques while refreshing the skills of the veterans.
“My NCOs are definitely going to get these guys ready for deployment,” said Perkins. “But including the air element into the training made it vital training for the leadership as well. The planning and the execution is all part of the training.”
“This was my first time on a military helicopter and it was awesome,” added Pfc. Joshua Stump. “I have only been with the unit for three months, but with all the training we have been doing, I definitely feel like I’ll be able to perform my job to the fullest downrange.”