Staff Sgt. Eric Ruffin Jr., Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-58th Airfield Operations Battalion, and Sgt. Christian Johnson ATC Company, 1-58th AOB, connect rigs to a CH-47 Chinook during sling-load training Aug. 11 while WO1 Timothy G. Alger, ATC Company, 1-58th AOB, looks on. (Photo by Sara E. Martin)
Published: August 22, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August. 22, 2014) -- Blending excitement with a dash of fear, Soldiers from the 1-58th Airfield Operations Battalion, Air Traffic Control Company battled powerful CH-47 Chinook rotorwash that pulled at their minds and bodies while taking on a sling-load training mission Aug. 11 and 15.
The Soldiers were on a two-week section field training exercise when the sling-load training took place, according to WO1 Timothy Alger, 1-58th AOB, ATC Company, and pick-up zone control officer.
The first week allowed the tactical air traffic controllers time for readiness level progression, as well as proficiency training with the system. The second week was more all encompassing – focusing on ATC, but including sling-load operations, air-assault operations, section-level Aviation Resource Management Survey inspections and additional equipment training. This included Army Training and Leader Development (AR 350-1) and long-range communications.
“Today (Aug. 11) we are conducting sling-load operations with some of our pacing items, which are go-to-war, must-have items,” said Alger. “Sling-load operations are a great mission for the Army and it is an important mission. We are practicing seizing key terrain and using the key terrain for the betterment of maneuver operations.”
This was a weeklong operation, beginning Aug. 11 and ending Aug. 15.
“(Aug. 11) we went into the field beginning with a sling-load operation. On (Aug. 13) they (received) a re-supply mission, which was very realistic. If we were seizing key terrain ahead of the forward line of troops we would be doing the same thing,” said Alger, adding that these missions simulate actual overseas scenarios, and Soldiers were brought back Friday to complete the mission.
The AOB had two missions it was conducting during the week.
One team of Soldiers conducted tactical airspace integration system operations at Louisville Stagefield Army Heliport. A M1097 high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle was sling loaded, which was used to support their mission.
“Their mission is to flight follow a quarter of all the local military aircraft in the flying area. If they were to deploy, this is the type of operations they would be conducting – talking to aircraft in their area and trading information,” he said.
The other team sling loaded a tactical terminal control system and took control of the civilian airfield Florala Municipal Airport for the week.
“Conducting sling-load training will allow our unit to be successful in future expeditionary deployments, to possible austere and remote environments when supporting our unified action partners in the future,” said the pick-up zone control officer. “Being a forward operation they could take and set up the airfield for refueling and rearming purposes.”
Throughout the mission, both teams managed military and civilian aircraft in traffic patterns, refueling, landing and takeoff.
The unit completed its culminating training event in May, a benchmark that Alger said shows that the unit is ready to deploy. The airfield seizers that the unit conducted at Florala and Louisville validated all of the Soldiers air assault and sling-load training they have been working on.
Two of the most critical things Alger said the tactical air traffic controllers did during the mission was maintaining and advancing their readiness level progression, and learning hands on why safety is paramount.
“Sling load operations have the potential to be a very dangerous task if Soldiers are not properly trained and equipped to conduct such a mission. The list of things that could go wrong run the gambit,” he said.
Like many military operations, danger during sling-load training is ever-present and comes from a variety of risk factors, such as rotorwash speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. And that is why safety is paramount and deeply ingrained into every part of the operation, Alger said.
“My organization takes safety very seriously and uses deliberate risk assessment worksheets in conjunction with (the latest guidance) to ensure we are conducting safe operations on a daily basis,” he said.
The 1-58th AOB ATC plans to continue to hold sling-load training for Soldiers every quarter.
This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/132389/
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