OKINAWA, Japan (April 5, 2016) – The more than 11,000 pound airframe hovered just feet above the Soldiers’ heads while sand and other debris obscured their vision as they focused on rigging the quad bike onto the belly of the aircraft with a sling — an operation that requires a high-degree of attention to detail, meticulous preparation and an unerring commitment to safety.
Dozens of support Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, participated in sling-load operations, March 30, to stay tactically and technically sharp on the procedure, which is a staple in providing Soldiers in combat the beans and bullets required to win on the ground.
“Sling-load skills are perishable like many other individual Soldier tasks,” said Headquarters Support Company Commander Capt. Kai, whose last name is being withheld for operational security reasons. “This training helped introduce new Soldiers to the mechanics of sling-load operations and gave senior NCOs an opportunity to refresh skills and share knowledge and experience,” he said.
The battalion’s support companies take pride in being able to provide depth and breadth in the logistics realm and consistently look for new ways to add value to the organization’s lethal prowess, said Kai.
Although it is not known for certain when the U.S. Army first lobbed provisions from an aircraft to Soldiers on the ground, by the summer of 1942 “supply by air” had become commonplace in the Pacific Theater, according to Dr. Steven E. Anders, Quartermaster Corps Historian and author of “Aerial Delivery and Field Services — A Brief History.”
After the advent of the aerial delivery training department at the Quartermaster School at Fort Lee, Va. in 1951 and the solidification of aerial resupply doctrine during the Korean War, the rife use of helicopters in Vietnam proved equally effective at resupply via sling load, according to Anders.
For the First in Asia Battalion, resupplying small teams of operators on the ground requires innovation and versatility.
“Our Soldiers and NCOs are among the most versatile in the Pacific,” said Kai. “This training reflects the flexibility and adaptability we try to instill in our Soldiers. As support elements to forward deployed Special Operations Forces, [Forward Support Company] and [Headquarters Support Company] encourage creative solutions to problems and an outside-the-box mentality towards logistics.”
From deepening SOF-Conventional Force interoperability to developing new concepts for support and providing options for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, 1st Battalion Soldiers remain committed to staying at the height of readiness.