Sling load operations provide valuable training to Virginia Guard aviators, Fort Lee students

A Virginia National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter provides aviation support to students conducting sling load operations training Sept. 28 at Fort Lee, Va. The students are assigned to the U.S. Army Ordnance School training to be ammunition specialists. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT LEE, Va. — Virginia National Guard Soldiers in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter provided aviation support to students conducting sling load operations training Sept. 28 at Fort Lee, Va. The students are assigned to the U.S. Army Ordnance School training to be ammunition specialists. In addition to providing realistic training to the students, the sling load training also gave Virginia Guard aviators and crew members the opportunity to work on their own skills and gain valuable flight training time.

“It’s a great way for new pilots like myself to be able to get all our tasks signed off,” explained 1st Lt. William Bush of the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment. “Today I’m going to get evaluated on sling load tasks. It also gives us a real world experience.”

“This gives us a unit to work with and support and it helps them complete their training,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jay Beauvais. “For new pilots like Lt. Bush it teaches him a little bit of finesse on the controls. He’s getting guidance from the ground guide and from the crew chief, who is looking down through the floor.”

“There are a lot of things to focus on to get him centered over that load,” he added. “And then it helps us communicate in the cockpit as a team to lift that load and then fly away with it.”

“Overall, the goal is just get your skills back up and continue improving,” Bush said. “The more you fly, the better you are.”

The ammunition specialist course last eight weeks and trains Soldiers to receive, store and issue conventional ammunition, guided missiles, large rockets and other ammunition related items. Sixteen students participated in the sling load training, including one Pakistani Army officer.

An ammunition specialist needs to be trained to move ammunition from point to point where tactical vehicles cannot move. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

In their after action review, the students expressed satisfaction at getting hands-on training with an actual Black Hawk. “It added realism to the training,” one of the students said.

Although they can be assigned to many different units, an ammunition specialist needs to be trained to work with an aviation brigade. Being able to move ammunition from point to point where tactical vehicles cannot move is one of their greatest assets, according to Staff Sgt. William McIntosh, a senior instructor/writer at the school.

Beauvais estimates a Virginia Guard Black Hawk comes to Fort Lee for sling load training every two to three weeks.

“We never have a short supply of newer aviators coming in who need mission training such as sling loads,” he said. “Today we only had one pilot but there are days we might come in here with three guys and swap them out and get everyone a chance to lift it.”

Meanwhile personnel at the Ordnance School are grateful for the opportunity to train with a real helicopter and appreciate the professionalism of their Virginia Guard counterparts.

“The crews we have dealt with so far epitomize what it means to be in the U.S. military,” McIntosh said. “I appreciate them a great deal. They are the type of individuals that will help. They are there to learn and they are there to make everything a successful mission.

“We are all in the Army, whether active duty, the U.S. Army Reserve, or National Guard,” he said. “We should all be proficient in what we do so we are all helping each other train.”


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