FORT STEWART, Ga. - When lives are at stake, safety is paramount.
Many 'Vanguard' Soldiers said this was their takeaway from completing the Sling Load Inspector Certification Course held, Oct. 17-21, for Soldiers in the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, on Fort Stewart.
The mobile training course, offered by representatives from the U.S. Army Quartermaster School out of Fort Lee, Va., trained the Soldiers in basic sling load operations and certified them to inspect sling-loaded cargo.
'Vanguard' Soldiers learned about everything from the types of helicopters used in sling load operations and how to prepare cargo bags and military vehicles for loading, hooking equipment to helicopters and signaling the birds for pickup.
"It was a complete learning experience," said Sgt. Robert Thompson, a Washington, D.C. native, and an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4IBCT.
"I can't say what my favorite [part of the course] was because I enjoyed all of it," Thompson said.
The 40-hour block of instruction featured four days of classroom-based learning and hands-on testing, and one day of practical application training. On Oct. 17, the 'Vanguard' Soldiers conducted sling load operations with CH47 Chinook and UH60 Black Hawk helicopters on Donovan Field. Soldiers prepared a humvee, a M119A1/A2 Towed Howitzer and an A-22 cargo bag for pickup, attached the sling-loaded vehicles to the helicopters, and signaled the birds through all stages of the operation.
Sergeant First Class Joseph H. Massey, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the mobile SLICC training, said it was important that 'Vanguard' Soldiers understood how demanding and crucial their jobs were as sling load inspectors.
"When the dust hits the fan you really need to know what you're doing, especially in combat situations," Sgt. 1st Class Massey said. "Their job is vital: for units that are anywhere in the world, [sling-load operations] provides [for] faster resupply of equipment. A helicopter travels at roughly 100 to 130 knots, whereas a vehicle convoy travels at 45 miles per hour--so it can take hours out of a trip."
"One mistake can cost the life of personnel," Sgt. 1st Class Massey continued. "People think [they're] just delivering stuff [so] it's not going to cost lives, but [for] the unit that needs the food and that [ammunition], it's their life in the balance. Not to mention, you can bring down an aircraft [because of a] wrong hookup."
Specialist Jonathan Lugo, a native of Orlando, Fla., and a wheeled vehicle mechanic with Company B, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4IBCT, said that because he believes his unit will conduct sling-load operations in the future, taking the SLICC was invaluable.
"If [there are] any mistakes people get hurt," Spc. Lugo said. "We want to make sure that's not going to happen--we don't need to lose Soldiers that way."
Specialist Lugo added that each portion of the course was just as vital as the one other.
"I think everything is important, because if you miss the little things ... a little thing might lead to a big thing," Spc. Massey continued. "I think when human lives are at stake you have to take everything like it's as serious as everything else."
Sergeant Thompson echoed Spc. Lugo's sentiments about safety and the importance of their future roles.
"All of you other Soldiers out there [should] try to get involved in this class," Sgt. Thompson said. "It will allow you to be a great asset to your battalion, your brigade and to the Army itself."