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NEWS | June 6, 2024

Sling load helicopter training at Combat Support Training Exercise

By Spc. Xavier Chavez Exercise News Day

The sound of blades cutting through the air fills the area, along with the smell of dirt and freshly cut grass. The forceful gusts of wind from the helicopter’s rotor downwash batter Sgt. Bryan Lee of the 861st Quartermaster Company.

“We received, basically, an air movement request where we got a water buffalo, which contains all the hydration for the Soldiers to help with the refill process,” said Lee.

The sweeping gusts of wind crush the grass around him flat as he braces against the torrent. He and the other Soldiers from the 861st move in beneath the UH-60 Black Hawk and begin connecting the equipment to the helicopter's underside during the 2024 Combat Support Training Exercise at Fort Hunter Liggett, California.

“We move the water buffalo from one location to the other so that in a safe, quick manner, it can get to the other airfield so that they can refill it,” said Lee.

The water buffalo is a mobile water supply and a commonly used piece of Army equipment for storing and providing Soldiers with adequate water during various operations. One of Lee’s Soldiers hands the rigging they have created around the water buffalo up to the helicopter. Inside the helicopter are Soldiers from the 25th Cavalry Division. One sticks their arm through the cargo hook attachment point at the bottom of the helicopter and connects the rigging to their equipment hook for safe transport.

“The cool thing about sling loads is that you can load anything and everything. Loads from MREs to water, to even moving a whole Humvee and an LMTV if you want to,” said Lee. “I think the biggest ones I have moved were about three Humvees overseas.”

The Soldiers kneel and watch as the power of the Black Hawk’s engine sends the vehicle through the air with its newly attached sling load. As the wind grows faint, the Soldiers celebrate with smiles and high-fives for a job well done.

“Just seeing the satisfaction of all the work you put in, in those few minutes from the second that the aircraft picks up your load, everything is nice and secure to the point that they take it away, meaning that the ground forces, the aircrew, and yourself have signed off with a good A-OK that your load is going to get to the next location, that is the most satisfying portion,” said Lee.