BY TYRONE C. MARSHALL JR. – WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii – There are times when critical supplies such as food, medicine or equipment cannot be moved by means of ground transportation due to restrictive terrain, inclement weather or enemy threat.
During these occasions the ability to conduct sling-load operations becomes a vital asset to commanders and can make the difference in accomplishing the mission.
The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) assisted 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), 25th Infantry Division (ID), “Broncos,” with conducting sling-load training to prepare their Soldiers for their upcoming deployment.
Staff Sergeant Pablo Aviles, primary instructor, A Company, 325th Brigade Support Battalion (BSB), coordinated and led the training. With three deployments under his belt and combat experience sling-loading in Afghanistan, he believes the training prior to deployment was a must.
Due to the terrain, there is potential that a lot of supplies may have to be brought in and air dropped, he said.
“I’m air assault qualified, and in the past, I was artillery so I did a lot of air assault missions where I had to sling-load howitzers and vehicles that were critical to our training and tasks.
“This will get our Soldiers familiarized with [some of the tasks] they will be conducting down range as far as platoon-level, aerial delivery operations. Soldiers will gain confidence actually hooking up the cargo underneath the aircraft. It’s [absolutely] critical.”
Using a Blackhawk from 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th CAB, Broncos Soldiers gained first-hand experience by slinging equipment to an actual helicopter, with its blades spinning, the powerful feel of the wind from the rotor wash bearing down on them and the pressure of safely securing their loads.
“I feel more prepared now that I’ve been through the training,” said Pvt.2 Kelsey Lehto, motor transport operator, E Co., 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd IBCT, 25th ID. “I’ve never been under a helicopter. The wind and everything was very different. I wasn’t prepared for [how strong] the wind was.”
This real-time training served to teach the group of Soldiers, all of different ranks and levels of experience, to safely conduct sling-load operations; thereby, enhancing the capabilities of their unit.
Private First Class Michael Pannell, petroleum supply specialist, A Co., 325th BSB, 3rd IBCT, 25th ID, appreciated the familiarization even though he’s done the training before.
“It just means more experience for me since I’ve actually done it before. We’ll be ready to do it again when we deploy. I definitely feel more prepared now and it’ll be a little easier for me to do it in the future.”
Lehto agreed and was appreciative of the opportunity to learn how to sling-load so she could contribute with the rest of her fellow Soldiers.
“It prepared me better, so that way, whenever we deploy I’ll be able to [sling-load] and not just watch other Soldiers do it.”
Aviles reiterated the purpose of the training was to instill confidence in the Soldiers now so they will be fully capable of conducting “real world” missions while deployed.
“It gives them overall confidence that they can accomplish the task. Now they know how to go about researching information for rigging specific equipment. Now, if they don’t know how to [rig a certain piece of equipment], they know where to find it. That was a key task in the classroom portion. And also confidence in knowing the aircraft is not their enemy and with proper supervision they’ll be able to accomplish their tasks.”
With the Bronco Brigade preparing to deploy, Aviles recognized the difficulties of putting together this type of training with multiple units.
“The hardest part was coordination due to our deployment. We’ve pretty much sent everything forward. Everything went very smooth though. There was great communication between us and our aviation unit support. We asked for the training and they were more than willing to work around any issues we had at the time. So the two outside units working together to train Soldiers going down range was the greatest thing I saw.”
Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs