Sling loading a surprising sight at Camp Red Cloud
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Flying cars are supposed to be a thing of the future — but for the U.S. Army the future is now.
The surreal sight of Humvees and trailers hovering over Camp Red Cloud greeted soldiers arriving at work here Wednesday morning as soldiers from the Network Extension Detachment, Company B, Special Troops Battalion (STB) practiced sling loading the equipment beneath Chinook helicopters.
In the event of war, that’s how the troops would transport communications equipment to mountaintops.
Detachment commander Capt. Vince Lai, 30, of Diamond Bar, Calif., said it was the first sling load training for his unit since the battalion was formed earlier this year.
However, most soldiers from Company B, which supports 2nd ID’s communications network, did the loading when they were with the recently inactivated 122nd Signal Battalion.
Sling loading gives commanders the ability to expand their area of operations by bypassing obstacles or enemy positions. And it helps signal soldiers get gear to the top of mountains in wartime, Lai said.
“We rely on mobile subscriber equipment which uses line of sight technology,” he said. “Because of that we need to get the equipment up hills.”
The Army is incorporating satellite communications gear and looking at eliminating the mobile subscriber equipment, Lai said.
“The satellite technology means you don’t have to use hilltops, but we aren’t there yet,” he added.
One of the soldiers securing vehicles to the Chinooks, Spc. Loretta Cude, 24, said the operation reminded her of the movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” — about a flying car.
The native of Merced, Calif., said the most important parts of a sling load operation are securing the vehicle properly to the helicopter and making sure the straps holding it are not twisted.
Pfc. Damond Jones, 29, was the “hook man” during the training, during which he stands on Humvees’ roofs and hooks the load to the Chinooks.
“They picked me because I was the tallest guy,” said the 6 feet, 4 inch soldier.
Hooking the helicopter was made more difficult by rotor wash, which might have blown Jones off the Humvees if another soldier didn’t support him.
“When it (the Chinook) is right over you it is pretty still, but right before that the guy holding you has to really hold you because you don’t have any control of your balance,” he said. “There is no way you can stand up on your own.”
Jones’ “steadying influence” was Pfc. Charles Clarke, 21, of Barstow, Calif.
“It was my first time. We did it three times. The last time was pretty scary. That (Chinook) tire was coming pretty close,” he said before heading back to help sling load a forth and final Humvee.