SPARTA, Ill. - The breeze was gone and replaced by gusts of air as an Illinois Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter was lowered down from the sky.
Marines took hold of cables connecting a 7-foot-long mobile water trailer to cables on the passing helicopter. With cables secured, the breeze returned as the water trailer rose off the ground and the Chinook crew flew back up to higher elevation.
Soldiers with the Illinois National Guard's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, trained with other reserve component Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen to conduct their first joint logistical airdrop and sling-load training mission Sept. 11 here.
Service members came together to learn the purpose of sling loading, timely resupply, the proper hook-up procedures, safety procedures, cargo weight management and the capabilities of different sling-load able aircraft.
"We conducted this joint training exercise so that our Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines become familiar with working with each other during logistical operations such as what they have been experiencing in theatre," said Army Maj. Garrett Kolo, the U.S. Army Europe Command liaison officer for the Army Reserve element with U.S. Transportation Command.
Sling-load transportation of cargo aids in the movement of supplies when time is a critical factor, said Army 1st Lt. Andrew Hager, an officer with Company B, 1st Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, Indiana National Guard. Adding, it allows cargo to be moved more easily and efficiently when other methods of transportation may be hindered by the items’ shapes or dimensions.
"It's great training for Chinook crews with sling-load operations being the main mission of the Chinook and it's great to be able to work with the other components and cross train with them," Hager said.
Aside from becoming familiar with sling-load operations, the joint training also prepares them for air supported cargo movement they may have to support, Hager said.
"It can be intimidating when a Chinook is hovering just overhead with all the wind and noise and then you have to hook up slings to it," Hager said. "The training helps prepare them for that in a safe environment."
Throughout the training, 24 different lifts were conducted with cargo that ranged between 2,000 to 10,000 pounds and two practice parachute supply drops.
"This training is an integral asset to the military in that sling-load missions provide expedient delivery and extraction of equipment in hard-to-access areas," said Army Spc. Stefan, a quartermaster with the 1st Detachment, 168th Quarter Master Company of the Indiana National Guard.
During the field portion of the training, service members learned how to properly and safely inspect cargo loading equipment to identify weak or malfunctioning pieces.
Next, they practiced hooking up equipment to the aircraft with specific guidelines from on-looking instructors, inspecting and attaching cargo to the bottom of a hovering Chinook.
To put their skills to the test, air drops were then performed with the loads they prepared and rigged, to ensure they were done properly and safely.
"Safety is the number one step we keep in mind when rigging these objects to the aircraft," Carlin said. "One missed step can lead to a dangerous situation and even disrupt the flow of the mission."
"During real-time operations service members are deployed to remote location such as Afghanistan, where equipment and supplies need to be delivered in a timely and safe manner," Carlin said. "Afghanistan is a prime example where sling loads are essential due to the dramatic terrain and deadly improvised explosive devices everywhere on the roads."
Bringing all four service branches together for this training fosters and understanding of what each service can bring to the mission. Joint military cooperation has been a key to successful joint operations.
"This valuable training will keep our troops performing proficiently while delivering the essential elements needed on the battlefront," Kolo said.