GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - Soldiers from Headquarters Company, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne) practiced sling load operations during their training exercises at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Grafenwoehr on May 5 and 6.

Sling loading is the rapid movement of equipment by helicopter from one location to another using sling sets, cargo nets and other specially designed equipment. This allows units to avoid any surface obstacles that may hinder them from reaching their destination in a timely manner. It is also used to reach outlying areas where the use of convoys is impractical or impossible.

The 7th Army's JMTC is one of the top training centers for U.S. and international forces.

Members of the 173rd BSB were being trained on how to sling load utilizing CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

This training allowed the Soldiers to get under the helicopters, familiarize themselves with sling load operations to include attaching procedures. These procedures will be widely used when they are deployed.

"It's quite a rush to see that bird coming down on these Soldiers while they are attaching the reach pendant to the Chinook," said Capt. Michael Turpin, the unit's chaplain.

Parachute riggers by trade, the paratroopers were being cross trained in these operations in the event they would be called upon in the combat zone to sling load equipment.

With the safety observers on the ground and on the bird, each Soldier took a turn attaching the sling hook to the helicopter that hovered a mere five feet above them.

Once the load was attached, the Soldiers would jump off the load and wait for the bird to lift.

"It feels like a windstorm when that bird first comes in," said 2nd Lt. Jonathon Gambrell, the rigger platoon leader for HHC, 173rd BSB, "When it's finally above you, it's quiet and all you hear are the rotors spinning. It's awesome,"

Many of the Noncommissioned Officers that were assisting on the lanes are combat veterans, and they worked to enhance the training for the new soldiers that have just came to the unit.

"We have great NCO's in this unit," said Turpin. "They have all (taken) the younger soldiers under their wings and taught them everything that they know. I'm proud of every one of them" .

"The JMTC has been amazing," said Gambrell, "They gave us a whole drop zone so we can have plenty of space between the birds to emphasize safety."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16