BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Soldiers of Alpha Company, 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, conducted a sling load operation at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Oct. 11.
More than 20 soldiers make up the company’s supply platoon which is divided into three six- to eight-man teams labeled “sling teams.” One of these teams is now tasked with supporting the American Consulate missions in Herat, said Sgt. 1st Class Alvin Porch, Alpha Company’s supply platoon sergeant.
The supply platoon provides direct support for Black Jack, but supports other units through warehouse activities, ammunition supply point operations and base distribution; however, their primary mission is sling load operations, Porch said.
“Our missions vary, but the majority involves sling load operations,” Porch said. “We average around 25 loads a month at various times and locations.”
Sling team schedules are rotated due to time constraints and last-minute operational needs, ensuring all soldiers are given proper downtime, which ensures sling teams rest so they are always prepared for strenuous sling operations during any given circumstance.
“Sling loading may look easy, but it is very stressful,” Porch said. “Hours of operation vary; last-minute tasks and other setbacks all have an effect on operation.”
Porch defined setbacks as multiple variables hindering or possibly stopping operations. Unaffected by any setback, Porch said his teams are the best at what they do, all being fully trained and always prepared.
“They are the best platoon in theater, keeping an average sling success rate around 96 percent,” Porch said. “They are competent, quick to react, great at being flexible with last-minute tasks and well trained.”
All soldiers in the platoon are sling load qualified, having been through various training environments, with four of the soldiers additionally certified to inspect and sign off on cargo loads. “Each soldier is versatile enough to handle any position regardless if that position be hook-up man, grounding the helicopters or acting as safeties,” Porch said.
Team success also comes from team cohesion, said Sgt. Jason Starkweather, an ammunitions specialist, team leader and certified sling load inspector with Alpha Company.
“We are a strong platoon, our communication is great and we help each other get through missions,” Starkweather said. “We maintain 100 percent accountability of our people and equipment, also mentoring a soldier who may feel uncomfortable with their current ability during an operation.”