By Staff Sgt. Jon CuppFebruary 22, 2007
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Feb. 21, 2007 - When people think of air assaults they may have an image in their mind of soldiers repelling from helicopters down long ropes and then once on the ground, the soldiers go to attack an objective.
But much of what the Army teaches about air assaults concerns the ability to airlift supplies, equipment and other re-supply items, getting them quickly to soldiers in the combat zone.
This is the type of training that 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team soldiers with Company A, 115th Brigade Support Battalion received here Feb. 16 as they sling loaded M-114 up-armored Humvees with the assistance of CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.
"We did this in preparation for further training events in which our soldiers can train others in the brigade about high speed insertion (air assault) capabilities, adding just another facet to our capabilities," said Capt. John Jacques, the company commander and a native of West Islip, N.Y. "This will help our soldiers as they learn how to get supplies quickly to an objective to include vehicles and equipment or whatever is necessary to complete the mission.
"They're also learning teamwork and gaining the confidence that they can accomplish anything tasked to them in support of combat operations," added Jacques whose troops often work escorting convoys and transporting supplies.
In preparation for the training airlift, soldiers attached four large chains which are part of a large sling and attached them to shackles on the vehicles.
Once the vehicles were in place on a helopad, the helicopter flew in and the soldiers hooked the slings to the under belly of the aircraft. When the sling was secured to the hook on the helicopter, the soldiers quickly moved away from the aircraft and the vehicle.
In the training, the helicopter crews airlifted the vehicles a short distance and then lowered the vehicles back to the ground, unhooking the sling and allowing time for other soldiers to have the opportunity to take turns sling loading the vehicles.
According to 2nd Lt. Justin Bergen, a platoon leader with the company and a native of Centralia, Ill., oftentimes the purpose of rapid air insertion involves getting equipment to soldiers in areas that have difficult terrain-terrain that makes it impossible to get equipment to troops via standard routes such as roads.
"This training gives us more skills, making us more flexible when we have to tackle some of the difficult logistical problems that often face troops in the combat zone," said Bergen.
Nearly two weeks ago, the soldiers of Company A took several hours of instruction, and trained using a 40-foot crane to simulate a helicopter lifting Humvees and other supplies.
"For many of the soldiers, this will be their first time working with a helicopter," said Jacques.
"This is very exciting and a great opportunity for the soldiers to realistically practice what they've been trained," said Bergen. "Hopefully, this will inspire them to want to go to other professional military schools such as the air assault school or Pathfinders."
The soldiers said the training was a worthwhile experience.
"It's an honor and a pleasure to learn something new and to be able to know how to do this," said Pfc. David Barkdoll of Company A and a native of Atlanta, Ga. "If one of my fellow soldiers is in desperate need of equipment in the combat zone, I know I'm trained and prepared to help him get that equipment quickly."
Barkdoll, whose military occupational specialty is that of a petroleum supply specialist, has spent his time in Iraq going on patrols and escorting convoys.
"It's exciting and pretty amazing when you see how close that helicopter gets to you," said Barkdoll of the day's training experience.