MCBH KANEOHE BAY, Hawaii -- Helocasting from a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter off the coast of Hawaii sounds like the perfect scene for a big screen action movie or military recruiting video. For Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat, it's all about sharpening critical survival skills and building confidence.On Aug. 9, the 2nd IBCT joined fellow Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, to participate in Mai Kai Leap II, an overwater training exercise, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii Kaneohe Bay, here."Since we operate over water every day, flying equipment or Soldiers to PTA (Pohakuloa Training Area), or some of the other islands, it is important that our crew members and passengers understand how to survive in the water in case there is an emergency," said Lt. Col. Andy Graham, from East Grand Rapids, Michigan, the battalion commander assigned to 3-25th AVN.
With the focus on safety and readiness, Lightning Division Soldiers practiced helocast insertion and extraction utilizing both the CH-47 Chinook and the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters while overall gaining confidence in their surroundings and building cohesion across their formations."This is a great opportunity to build the partnership throughout the division and build one cohesive team, which is so important across the Army," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Spear, from Twentynine Palms, California, the senior enlisted advisor assigned to 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd IBCT. "However, looking back at the train-up, we lost a lot of Soldiers who couldn't swim more than 25 meters. Now with that being said, we also conduct a lot of our training over at PTA, which causes us to fly back and forth from Oahu, so we must have our Soldiers comfortable with their surroundings whether it's in the water, on land, or up in air just in case anything goes wrong."According to Staff Sgt. Nathan Sanchez, from Pleasant, California, a flight medic assigned to 3-25th AVN BN, even though Soldiers failed prequalifying train-up requirements, it's not a knock on them because even strong swimmers panic at times in diverse situations."You can have a strong swimmer who swims like a fish in a bathing suit but take that same swimmer and have them swim in their uniform and boots and they panic and they might not be as good as they thought," said Sanchez.To prepare the Warrior Brigade Soldiers for the challenges of helocast training, the Aviation Soldiers use the crawl, walk, and run approach that utilizes both controlled and open water areas."We start the Soldiers off in the pool and go through a crawl, walk, and run type of training where we have Soldiers do treading water for five minutes in the pool, go over the hand and arm signals, practice climbing the ladder that we hook it up on the diving platforms, they jump from the diving platforms to simulate jumping from the aircraft," Sanchez stated. "After the Soldiers pass the pool qualifications we then have the Soldiers repeat the swimming requirements in the ocean which consist of backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle, tread water for 20 minutes, then finally have the whole crew load the life raft and swim it to shore."By going through an intensive amount of training, it allows the Soldiers to become familiar with the equipment and it also builds confidence in everyone's abilities."This is something that is exciting. This isn't the typical type of training we conduct on a daily basis so to have the opportunity to come out here and do this I was all in," said Sgt. Dino Rois, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, an infantryman assigned to Company A, 1st Bn., 14th Inf. Regt. "Over the past couple of weeks we did a lot of training to get to this point so I was just nervous about not letting them down. This was a good confidence test to improve everyone's ability under pressure and it's very different compared to everything else we have done here."By conducting helocast training, the Lightning Division was able build unit cohesion and improves unit readiness across its formations.