During their annual training June 12, flight crews with Company G, 1st Battalion, 111th General Support Aviation Battalion, conducted sling load operations with a hook team on the ground. Although this isn’t uncommon, it isn’t something that Company G Soldiers typically support from the ground and provided flight crews the opportunity to see things from a different perspective.
The concrete block used for the training was 6,000 pounds; a UH-60 Black Hawk can carry up to 9,000 pounds on the cargo hook. Training with heavy loads presents an additional challenge for the pilots, who must manage the available power of the helicopter based on temperature and altitude and the fuel expenditure required to lift the block. In addition, as the aircraft approaches the pickup site, pilots lose the ability to see the team on the ground, relying solely on the crew chiefs and flight medics to guide them to the hook team.
“Having a hook team on the ground adds an additional element of realism,” said Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Lee, instructor pilot in the aircraft. “It makes you concentrate a lot more when your friends are underneath the helicopter.” During the training, Lee, along with crew chief Staff Sgt. Charles Frantzen and flight medic Staff Sgt. Dillon Filkins, evaluated Warrant Officer John Hensleigh, Spc. Gregory Knefel and Spc. Dylan Voights. “It is definitely helpful having experienced people guiding you to the team on the ground,” said Hensleigh, who had never performed sling load operations with a hook team on the ground.
Upon completion of the training event, Hensleigh, Knefel, and Voights all were designated Readiness Level 1, allowing them to fly without an instructor. RL1 status can take between six to 18 months to achieve, requiring considerable effort and hours of studying and is a significant milestone in a crew member’s career. “This was a great experience to see what it is like under the helicopter,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Adam Choy, a pilot
with Company G. “It makes you think about your skills next time you get in the cockpit.”