One of the primary roles of 46th Aviation Support Battalion is providing maintenance to keep the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade’s aircraft ready for training and missions.
While this maintenance is generally done inside the relative safety of dedicated military facilities, 46th ASB also has the responsibility for responding to maintenance issues that occur outside of the wire, which includes the worst-case scenario of a downed aircraft.
Soldiers of 46th ASB’s Bravo Company honed their technical and tactical skills during a downed aircraft recovery team exercise here, March 10.
“The purpose of this training was to educate Soldiers on DART procedures, and get them some hands-on experience,” said 1st Lt. Philip Kocher, maintenance platoon leader.
Two UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters with 2-158th Assault Helicopter Battalion flew to the training area to provide Soldiers the opportunity to work on the same type of aircraft they might have to recover in a combat zone.
“This training benefitted Soldiers by training them to recover downed aircraft in a combat environment, which is one of our unit's missions,” said Sgt. Alexander Spaulding, UH-60 helicopter repairer.
While rain fell, Soldiers moved to the parked aircraft with the unit maintenance aerial recovery kit, and began the complicated process of attaching various ropes, chains and other equipment to the aircraft.
“Soldiers were trained on loading an aircraft with people and equipment for transport to the site of a downed aircraft and rigging the downed aircraft for slingload out to a more secure area,” said Kocher.
For some Soldiers, this was one of their first experiences with DART procedures, and an opportunity to develop critical skills.
“We learned how to rig a UH-60M with a UMARK. It taught us what to expect from a DART mission,” said Pvt. Cleeundra Morman, UH-60 helicopter repairer.
Even the more experienced Soldiers were challenged with the training. As the Soldiers went through rehearsals before the aircraft arrived, they shared their individual expertise to prepare for working on the actual aircraft.
“The hardest part of the training was actually rigging the aircraft for slingload. It's a tricky process, and if you don't know exactly what you're doing, you'll do it wrong,” said Spaulding.
Planning for the training took several months as it required the coordination of multiple units within 16th CAB. The effort was rewarded with training that prepared Soldiers for a mission that can save lives and critical equipment in combat.
“The training went very well,” said Kocher, “We accomplished all of our training objectives safely, and Soldiers got the benefit of utilizing and riding on some assets outside of the battalion, which they rarely get to see outside of a hangar.”