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Slingload operations in heavy units.

Slingload operations normally take a back seat in heavy operations, partly because heavy logistics units often do not have adequate slingload equipment and partly because their personnel are not sufficiently trained to use it. This situation denies the heavy unit the use of valuable lift assets.

During a Kosovo Peacekeeping Force rotation, I was the officer in charge of slingload operations for the sector. Working with both Army and Marine Corps aircrews, my team accomplished more than 50 missions for a variety of customers, including the French and Ukrainian armies. Our experience in Kosovo and other missions revealed a shortfall that has been demonstrated more recently on the noncontiguous, nonlinear battlefields of Iraq--the need for slingload operations in heavy units.

To be able to conduct successful slingload operations, a unit must focus on three critical factors: inspector certification, training, and equipment.

Inspector Certification

Properly rigged and inspected loads are crucial to mission success and to soldier and equipment safety. To be a certified slingload inspector, a soldier must have attained a minimum grade of E-4 and must have attended the Slingload Inspectors Certification Course, Air Assault School, or Pathfinder School. The Aerial Delivery and Field Services Department of the Army Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Virginia, offers multitask trainer courses to train companies, battalions, or brigades.

It is important to remember that rigging and inspector certification are both perishable skills. A soldier who has not inspected a load in 18 months cannot be expected to work as fast or as accurately as a soldier who conducts inspections every month. A soldier who has not inspected a load in a long time also is more likely to make errors, which increases the chances of injury or loss of equipment.

Sustainment training should be conducted quarterly, and rehearsals should be held before all missions. Commanders who understand slingload principles will ensure that the proper amount of time is allotted for training and preparing for slingload missions.

Training

Training for slingload operations is a relatively simple process. The basics can be taught to an uncertified rigging team in 1 day. Training that focuses on specific loads can be taught in a single follow-up class.

One of the most important fundamentals of rigging equipment correctly is opening the book. The field manuals (FMs) that pertain to slingload operations are--

* FM 10-450-3, Multiservice Helicopter Sling Load: Basic Operations and Equipment.

* FM 10-450-4, Multiservice Helicopter Sling Load: Single-Point Rigging Procedures.

* FM 10-450-5, Multiservice Helicopter Sling Load: Dual-Point Load Rigging Procedures. These manuals should be available to rigging teams at all times. Although this may seem obvious, many soldiers try to rig loads from memory, which can have dangerous consequences.

Other important considerations are who is trained and what is trained. Soldiers in supply platoons, fuel and ammunition platoons, transportation platoons, and even the maintenance platoons of various combat service support companies should be trained to support slingload missions. Having more trained soldiers gives a commander more flexibility in planning and carrying out successful slingload operations.

A well-developed standing operating procedure (SOP) is an important tool for teaching proper slingload procedures. It will answer a lot of questions before they are even asked and help to identify problems and pitfalls.

Equipment

Currently, there are no slingload unit basic load recommendations for heavy units. For training purposes, a unit should have the following equipment: a 5,000- or 10,000-pound sling net, a 10,000- or 25,000-pound sling set, and a static discharge wand. This minimum amount of equipment will allow the soldiers to train with most basic loads.

To be fully operational, a slingload unit should have a much larger inventory that includes ten 5,000- or 10,000-pound sling nets, ten 10,000- or 25,000-pound sling sets, two static discharge wands, and two 25,000-pound reach pendants. With this equipment, a unit can conduct most certified slingload missions. While it may be tempting to mix the sling net and sling set sizes to save money, the additional cost of purchasing 10,000-pound sling nets and 25,000-pound sling sets is more than offset by the increased functionality.

Unit and Aircrew Cooperation

In order to conduct successful slingload missions, a good working relationship must exist between the slingload unit and the air assets in the division. The division air liaison officer (ALO) can help identify and meet the unit's needs. By establishing a cooperative relationship with the ALO early, the unit can gain valuable experience in evaluating factors such as weather and elevation when planning slingload operations.

Through the ALO, the slingload unit also should establish a good working relationship with the supporting aviation unit. This relationship will help identify the problems and needs of the pilots and the aircraft they use and foster trust between the two units. Pilots are not required to accept cargo that slingload units rig for them, so it is important to build trust and credibility between the two units in order to accomplish the mission successfully.

The Helicopter of Choice

From a logistician's standpoint, the CH-47 Chinook helicopter is the aircraft of choice for slingload operations. Its heavy-lift capability is three times greater than that of the UH-60 Black Hawk. The CH-47's increased lift capacity and its single- and dual-point cargo hook options make it the most effective tool in the Army for slingload operations.

Heavy units must understand that they have a vital, often overlooked tool at their disposal--slingload. It is important that they learn how to use it effectively in providing combat service support to warfighters.

CAPTAIN JAMES OTIS IS A STAFF OFFICER AT FORT CARSON, COLORADO. HE HAS A B.S. DEGREE IN MARKETING FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH. HE IS A GRADUATE OF THE FIELD ARTILLERY OFFICER BASIC COURSE, THE SLINGLOAD INSPECTORS CERTIFICATION COURSE, THE COMBINED LOGISTICS CAPTAINS CAREER COURSE, AND THE PETROLEUM AND FUELS OFFICER COURSE.
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Author:Otis, James
Publication:Army Logistician
Date:May 1, 2004
Words:972
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