FORT LEE, Va. (June 25, 2021) -– While ground transport is the most common and practical way to move ammunition out to fighting forces on the front lines, it isn’t always the fastest if a rapid resupply is needed.
That’s when sling load operations comes into play – a skilled process of loading and lashing a pallet so it can be lassoed onto the cargo hook of a helicopter for delivery by air.
“Sling loading ammunition for emergency resupply is an essential skill of our profession,” confirmed Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Kaylin who serves as the Ordnance School’s training ammunition supply point noncommissioned officer in charge, 89B Ammunition Specialist Course. “Air movement also is a way to get ammunition from A to B and to areas you can’t get to via convoy because the roads are bad or there is no access.”
Because sling load operations are largely situational, the schoolhouse prepares students to execute a wide range of “what-if scenarios.”
“This training is very critical,” Kaylin said of the 8-hour block of sling-load instruction that took place here June 17. “As an 89B, sling load is going to be one of the tasks they’re going to see again and again out there in the operational Army.”
The sling load portion of the 89-Bravo course consists of three hours classroom time and five hours of familiarization training with at UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at McLaney Drop Zone. The chopper continuously circles the training area, often inching into position over the mocked-up ammunition pallets and hovering while instructors guide students through the procedures of attaching and secure cables.
The process can be daunting for young Soldier experiencing their first blasts of powerful rotor wash from a 6-ton, hulking aircraft settling in and hovering just a few feet over their heads. Many of the students had never seen a helicopter up close, much less one that hung inches above them with a thump-thump-thump that could be felt in the bones.
“I know a lot of adrenaline went through my blood,” admitted 19-year old Pfc. Vuillermo Ageirre afterward. “Seeing the aircraft coming toward me, I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ It was a nice, exhilarating experience.”
Pvt. Adam Hetrick, who was paired with Ageirre underneath the aircraft, said the training was a “great time and good experience” that may contribute to his future as a Soldier.
“Hopefully, I can progress in my Army career and do more with helicopters,” he said.
Both Soldiers are assigned to Echo Company, 832nd Ord. Bn.
Staff Sgt. George Avery, who guided students through the cargo hookups along with Staff Sgt. Jennifer Wynn, said sling load skills are a must in the ammunition supply arena.
“It’s a good skill to have,” he said. “You never know when you’re going to need it. It’s better to have a skill you might use than not having it at all.”
On a yearly basis, about 800 students graduate from the eight-week 89B Ammunition Specialist Course, said Kaylin. There are roughly 2,400 ammunition specialists among the ranks of the active and reserve components.