US Army, May 03, 2016 - FORT STEWART, GA by Spc Rochelle Prince-Krueger - Picture this: an up-armored Humvee hanging below a Chinook helicopter as if it was meant to be there; around you are winds so strong they almost blow you over; the roaring sound of the helicopter’s dual propellers are almost deafening to your ears.
It’s a picture many couldn’t imagine; but at Fort Stewart, Ga., that was the scene April 29 for a select group of Soldiers who completed the Sling Load Inspector Certification Course.
The Providers of 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade hosted the course and brought instructors from Fort Lee, Va., to give an opportunity to Soldiers to have another skill-set in their kit bag.
A sling load operation is using a helicopter to deliver goods or equipment to a place that cannot be reached by rail or truck easily. It is often utilized in combat environments such as Afghanistan where the terrain makes it more dangerous to deliver supplies by ground.
“The actual course is in Fort Lee, Va.,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Scott, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the instructors. “We do mobile training sites because it gives an opportunity to allow more Soldiers to become certified without costing their units a lot of funding to send them to Virginia.”
The requirements for the course are simple: any Soldier in grade E-4 and above can take the course; they get the certification if they pass the written exam and the hands-on inspection. Soldiers’ military occupational specialty does not matter. In this class there was an array of MOS’s from flight engineer, military police, to quartermasters and everything in between.
“Typically I do my job in an office setting, but our unit wants us to be self-sufficient,” said Spc. Acie Leslie, a financial management technician assigned to 24th Financial Management Support Unit, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Inf. Div. Sust. Bde., “This is a great tool to have because you never know when you might need it. We are on the Global Reaction Force mission right now and who knows, maybe we will need to transport our vehicles and equipment somewhere. We always have to be ready.”
The class started with more than 40 Soldiers, but proved to be a challenge for some. About 30 Soldiers successfully completed the course and are now certified inspectors for sling load operations.
“I didn’t realize it took that much to rig and sling load equipment,” said Leslie. “But after completing the course I see why it takes so much effort because safety is paramount and we don’t want people getting hurt or damaging equipment.”
The course is broken up every day with classroom instruction in the morning and hands on activities in the afternoon. The Soldiers learn about the different aircrafts and types of loads as well as how to prepare and rig the equipment.
“Sling load is one of the best methods to keeps soldiers safe and out of harm’s way in a combat environment,” said Scott. “These Soldiers who completed the course are a more valuable asset to their units now.”
The Soldiers who completed the course had an opportunity to conduct sling load operations with the assistance of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Inf. Div., who provided both UH-60 Blackhawk and a CH-47 Chinook helicopters to sling a Humvee and a cargo bag simultaneously.
“It is always great to go out and apply the knowledge that you learn in the classroom to ensure you are both technically and tactically proficient,” said Sgt. 1st Class Andrea Hill, the force protection senior enlisted for 3rd Inf. Div. Sust. Bde. “The rush we gained from hooking up something and watching it being lifted off was an invaluable experience that you can’t receive sitting in the classroom.”