BELTON LAKE — Pfc. Demonte Wheeler’s first time in a helicopter was also his first time jumping out of one.
As part of a training exercise Friday for Maddog Troop, 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, the cavalry scout had to jump from a Black Hawk hovering between 8 and 20 feet in the air, into Belton Lake.
“Once we took off and I starting to see the water, I was like, ‘OK, it’s time,” Wheeler said after completing the task and swimming ashore.
Known as a helocast, the jump trained soldiers on an insertion technique that’s part of the squadron’s skillset, said Capt. Sion Edwards, troop commander.
“We often talk about ground or air assault, but this is another way to get into an area of operations,” he said.
In a real scenario, the technique would typically be used to link soldiers to a long-range reconnaissance unit or forward element to provide security. For this training event, the follow-on mission was a troop organizational day and barbecue. Families were waiting on the shore at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreational Area to watch and support the 67 soldiers who jumped.
Since this was the first time many of the troopers had conducted a helocast, soldiers wore life jackets. Next time, they will take it up a notch, jumping with full “battle rattle” and ruck sacks, Edwards said.
“It’s a skill and a training event that builds confidence in cavalry troopers for their reconnaissance and security missions,” said Lt. Col. Charlie Moehlenbrock, squadron commander, who jumped with the troop. “This is what being in the Army’s all about.”
Troopers had two days to train for the helocast, utilizing the 10-foot high dive at the 42nd Street pool. Because of the long swim to shore, soldiers also had to prove they could tread water for at least 5 minutes and swim across the pool.
“We identified any soldiers who may have issues coming out of the helicopter and then paired them with strong swimmers,” Edwards said.
Watching from the shore at Belton Lake was 1st Sgt. Mike Garvin’s 5-year-old son, Carson.
“It turned out pretty good,” Carson said.
William Morris also watched his dad, Sgt. Ryan Morris, jump.
“Jumping out of an airplane would be more awesome,” said the 8-year-old, because it would have been higher in the air.
Most soldiers, including Wheeler, said they were ready for a second jump after swimming to the shoreline.
“I wasn’t nervous. ... I had it all down and it wasn’t that hard. I want to do it again.”