FORT DRUM, N.Y. - It's like standing under a hurricane hanging just above your head.
But that didn't stop the Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard's Company A, 427 Brigade Support Battalion, the battalion's transportation company, from standing underneath a hovering CH-47 Chinook and hooking a load of cargo underneath the aircraft.
"It was a little bit scary, and I was nervous at first," said Spc. Karinda Colon, an automated logistical specialist. "I'm so proud of myself. I feel like I reached a goal in my military career by being able to say I've done this."
The CH-47, while hovering over the load, is capable of kicking up an abrasive cloud of sand and dirt, and producing hurricane force winds.
"It's an adrenaline booster," said Colon, a Queens, New York, resident.
"I have more confidence in myself and my battle buddies knowing that I can do it. Seeing it lift up the load that you hooked up and fly away.
It gives me the confidence to be able to do it again."
Sling-loading, a process where different materials such as food, water, or vehicles are rigged and attached to the underside of a helicopter for transport, requires the chopper to hover just above the ground to enable the Soldiers to attach the load. It requires close coordination between the Soldiers on the ground and the pilots and crew of the aircraft involved.
The exercise at annual training was the culmination of months of training at home station, said Sgt. Andres Rosado, the company's administration non-commissioned officer.
"We've been training for sling-load operations over the last year," said Rosado, a Rochester, New York-resident.
"During all this training we haven't actually seen a chopper. Everybody was happy and got a chance to go under the hook."
Company A is tasked with supporting the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team by moving supplies and assets in and around the battlefield.
"Sling-loading really unifies the unit as a whole," said Rosado. "It's kind of neat how everything comes together while sling-loading, because everybody has a role. When you have somebody request water support, third platoon prepares it, second platoon rigs it, and first platoon will transport it to the landing zone."
The chance to finally sling-load a CH-47 added a "Hooah" factor, Rosado said.
"Having a chopper there provided a lot more experience than anything I could tell them because they got to do it firsthand," said Rosado.
"Everybody can rig, but it's different when you're under the helicopter. I wanted them to realize how serious this is."
The training was facilitated by the help of a crew of a CH-47 Chinook piloted by members of Company B 3rd Battalion 126th Aviation, based in Rochester, New York.
"Having the crew there briefing us before hand added a realistic feel, especially to the new privates," Rosado explained. "The support that they provided was awesome."
"I thought it was a real nice experience for everybody," Rosado added. "It was a real morale booster, the soldiers loved it and they're still talking about it."
"Now that they've done it under the hook, they understand the reason behind all the training," said Rosado. "If it isn't rigged the right way it's not going to fly the right way. They need to do this flawlessly every time until this becomes second nature."
"Let's try it in the dark," said Colon. "Now that would be awesome."