Ohio Army National Guard conducted a combined training event in which about 75 Ohio National Guard Soldiers, along with a small group of Michigan National Guard Soldiers, performed sling load operations at Camp James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center near Newton Falls, Ohio.
The importance of sling load operations is to resupply units in a more efficient manner rather than utilizing ground units.
“When it comes down to it, if we can’t get a truck in, we can load up anything we need to and hook it up to a helicopter and fly it in,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Jarkewicz, a platoon sergeant with Company A, 237th Support Battalion in Cleveland. “We can fly in water, food or any kind of equipment we need during a natural disaster response.”
National Guard Soldiers practiced preparing and rigging a variety of military equipment and vehicles before attaching them to CH-47 Chinook helicopters and watching them lift off.
“Everybody is staying involved and getting good training,” said Sgt. Kevin Fowler, one of the instructors and a squad leader with Company A, 237th Support Battalion. “This is the first time we’ve done training at this scale, with this many units. It gives Soldiers a chance to get involved.”
All the instructors are organic to the Ohio Army National Guard, bringing skills learned through training and experience back to their units.
“We bring all kinds of skills to the table,” said Capt. Erica Anderson, an operations officer with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 237th Support Battalion. “We have air assault-qualified people, we have sling load-qualified people, and we have pathfinder-qualified people. They are bringing all their training together to teach our Soldiers.”
The training culminated in multiple CH-47s circling overhead, with Soldiers hooking up trucks and howitzers, struggling against the blast of the downdraft put out by the two massive helicopter rotors on each aircraft.
“Live hook (up) is windy, loud and gets the heart racing,” Fowler said. “Every time you get to do it is a fun experience.”
The Ohio National Guard has utilized these skills in response to many natural disasters, including transporting generators and equipment to areas of Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria, supplies to flooded areas of Texas, and areas affected by tornados here in Ohio.