By Sgt. Bradley CooneyMarch 9, 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.
The training consisted of artillery maneuvers and sling load operations, which involved attaching an external load to an airborne helicopter and transporting it to another 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 Blackhawk helicopter with the 1/244th Aviation could retrieve it. Each load had to be inspected and deemed safe for transport.
Once inspections were complete, a Soldier manually hooked the Howitzer to the helicopter while it hovered overhead. Once the load was attached to the belly of the aircraft, the helicopter hauled it away to its predetermined destination.
The Howitzer's destination was several miles across Fort Sill, where soldiers with the 160th waited 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 Blackhawk dropped the Howitzer at the predetermined landing zone, the gun sections and gun chiefs prepared for their fire missions.
Accounting for factors such as wind speed, temperature, elevation, they determined their targets and "put steel on Lucille," as Yearous worded it, firing their artillery rounds.
At the end of the firing mission, the weapons were rigged up to the helicopters and flown back to their original location.
The seamless execution of these exercises demonstrated the long-lasting reputation of talent and professionalism of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat team and 90th Troop Command's aviation units.
After the arduous mission, the Soldiers were in high spirits, camped 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."