By Sgt. Todd Goodman
1st Infantry Division public affairs
One way to beat rush hour traffic and avoid roadside bombs is to park under a helicopter, strap the Humvee to it and let the chopper airlift it to the destination. That is what the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division was training to do recently.
It’s called sling-load training and was the regiment’s first major training event coordinated as a company. This exercise has a couple of practical uses. First, it eliminates the need to look out for roadside bombs.
“Anytime you can reach your objective without traveling roads in Iraq, you minimize risk by 90 percent,” said 1st Sgt. Christopher Kowalewski, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment. “That is huge.”
And second, it makes squeezing into constrained battlefields feasible.
“There are different ways to get to a battlefield,” said Capt. Kitefre Oboho, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment commander, . “This gives us options. For example, in Afghanistan you can’t always drive to your objective. There are places where a helicopter can go that a Humvee can’t. It gives us flexibility when trying to fit into a confined area.”
Prior to the field exercise, the company trained for hours upon hours at the battalion, rigging vehicles and de-rigging them, then doing it all over again. Proficiency is important.
“Every platoon in Delta will be sling-load certified and tactically proficient,” Kowalewski said. “Training will continue. We definitely won’t be satisfied today.”
A proficient unit should be able to rig a vehicle in fewer than 10 minutes. And while some groups successfully rigged a vehicle in eight minutes, some needed a bit more time. A lot of checks and rechecks must be done before airmailing a Humvee.
“You just have to pay close attention to make sure everything is set right and taped down,” Pvt. James Caird said. “You have to secure the heavy equipment that is inside the vehicle, like shovels and pick axes. Right now, it’s simulated, but in real world environment you’d also have ammo cans and fuel.”
“You could really injure soldiers if things fall out or off, like side mirrors and antennas or freak accidents like the windows blowing out while flying over a city,” Pfc. Joel Moreno said.
Once the vehicles were rigged properly, the Chinooks, provided by Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, flew in and the exciting portion began. As the giant choppers hovered above the Humvees, several soldiers ran out, fighting the wind from the rotors, climbed atop the vehicle and strapped the chopper’s line to the rig. Once secured, signals were given to the pilot and away went the Humvee —next stop, the landing zone.
But there was more than just sling load training going on during this exercise. Soldiers not preparing the Humvees for takeoff were pulling security. Even proper radio communication classes were going on simultaneously. Down time wasn’t on the schedule for this group of infantrymen, and there were constant checks on who was and wasn’t wearing the proper equipment such as eye protection.
“You! Get over here,” Kowalewski yelled. “What goes over these?” he said as he pointed to the soldier’s eyes. “Why aren’t you wearing them? Hey, show me how you engage an insurgent. Right now; show me. Pretend there is one coming at you right now.” The soldier turned and raised his weapon. “How are you going to engage him with no magazine in your weapon?”
Mentoring never stops.
“You have a lot of young, inexperienced privates who don’t have a clue about combat situations,” he said. “If you are lackadaisical with little stuff, you are going to have problems in the future. Iraq is a different animal completely. We are going to beat that fact into their heads.”