FORT CARSON, Colo. - A group of Soldiers struggled to stand against the rotor wash from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter while enjoying the rare sight of a 45 foot, 11 thousand pound bridge lifted into the air, July 9.
Soldiers of Alpha Company, 299th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, partnered with a CH-47 Chinook helicopter crew of Bravo Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, to sling load a Rapidly Emplaced Bridge System (REBS) to a gap crossing in the Fort Carson training area.
"Sling loading the REBS is unique and we've learned from our training at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site that there's a lot of air assault operations within a Stryker brigade," said 1st Lt. Ryan Hall, platoon leader, Alpha Company, 299th BEB, 1st SBCT, 4th Infantry Division. "This training gives us a new facet and new ability to help provide more mobility to the brigade."
Spc. William Rundle, bridge crew member, Alpha Company, 299th BEB, 1st SBCT, 4th Infantry Division, said the REBS is typically emplaced using an M1977 Common Bridge Transporter and 26 steps are performed in about 20 minutes to launch the bridge.
"Normally deploying the bridge takes a lot of work and troubleshooting," said Rundle, native of Batavia, Illinois. "With the bridge already on the ground and sling loading it in; I think this is going to be a lot easier than emplacing manually."
Before transporting the REBS, the ground crew prepared a sling load by securing heavy cables and tie-downs to the bridge. The CH-47 Chinook carefully lowered to just a couple feet over the heads of the Soldiers as they hooked the bridge to the underside of the aircraft.
"Both during hook-up and emplacement we'll have ground guides and they'll be giving us hand and arm signals which direct us," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Ramsey, CH-47 Chinook pilot, Bravo Company, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. "We'll also have one of the squad leaders on board visually watching everything that happens and providing feedback."
The Soldiers successfully attached the REBS and then ran 100 meters off to one side as the helicopter slowly lifted off the ground with the bridge and flew to nearby gap crossing without the help from an existing standard operating procedure (SOP).
"When you're trying to do a gap crossing you have certain places it can go, there must be improved abutments on each side and the gap has to be a specific length. So right now we're developing a marking SOP," said Hall, a native of Dallas. "If this does become a standard, then it's something we can provide to improve the capabilities of this type of bridge and bridging units across the Army."
At the end of the day, the sling load training was just as important for the helicopter crew as for the Soldiers on the ground.
"It's pretty unique. We've never done this before. We've done bridges in the past but nothing like this specifically," said Ramsey, a native of Tucson, Arizona. "Every lesson learned will be passed along and potentially published in a specific SOP."