By Sgt. Bradley CooneyMarch 8, 2017
FORT SILL, Okla. - Surrounded by the Wichita Mountains and vast plains of Southwest Oklahoma, members of the 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery Regiment and Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment conducted air assault training at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma Saturday.
This training is comprised of artillery maneuvers and sling load operations, which involves attaching an external load to an airborne helicopter and transporting said load to a different location.
"Today we are doing something a little different," said 1st Lt. Joel Yearous, executive officer of Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery Regiment. "We are doing air assault and table six certifications; a sequence of fire missions to train our gun sections and certify our gun chiefs."
Teams of Soldiers from the 160th worked together to properly secure their weapons system, a Howitzer, with a series of chains and harnesses, so an inbound Black Hawk helicopter with the 1/244th Aviation can retrieve it. Each load must be inspected and deemed safe for transport.
Once inspections are complete, a Soldier manually hooks the Howitzer to the helicopter while it hovers overhead. Once the load is attached to the belly of the aircraft, the helicopter hauls it away and heads to its predetermined destination.
The Howitzer destination is several miles across Fort Sill, where soldiers with the 160th wait for its arrival.
"The training is definitely good for us," Yearous said. "It's a challenge with a lot more moving pieces. It's also fun for everyone involved to do something different. Aviation [Soldiers] were pretty excited to train with us."
Once the Black Hawk dropped the Howitzer at the predetermined landing zone, the gun sections and gun chiefs prepared for their fire missions.
Factoring in things such as wind speed, temperature and difference in elevation, targets are determined for firing upon. Once the targets are determined, it's time to "put steel on Lucille," as Yearous put it, where they fire their artillery rounds.
At the end of the firing mission, the weapons are rigged up to the helicopters and flown back to its original location.
The seamless and mathematical execution of these exercises continues to demonstrate the long-lasting reputation of talent and professionalism of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat team and 90th Troop Command's aviation units.
Even after the long and arduous mission placed before them, the Soldiers slept in high spirits beneath the stars on the cold and windy Oklahoma landscape.
"Morale is high," Yearous said. "We are used to staying out in the field, so this is nothing to us."