Sgt. Ryan Tatum

3rd CAB Public Affairs

Marne Air Soldiers prepare to sling load a M777 howitzer with their CH-47 to support 1-118 FA, “Hickory’s Howitzers” Soldiers with their gunnery table II certification Nov. 15 at Fort Stewart. (Photo by Sgt. Ryan Tatum)

Marne Air supports 48th IBCT

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation regiment, 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, conducted sling load operations with 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Nov. 15 at Fort Stewart.

The training enables the 48th IBCT to meet the requirements for their upcoming mission to Afghanistan, while enabling Marne Air Soldiers to maintain unit readiness.

“We supported the 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery regiment by airlifting their equipment in order to help them certify their crews during their gunnery tables,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Andre Teixeira, a CH-47 Chinook pilot for Company B 2-3rd Avn.   “The training enables them to conduct the next phase of their gunnery tables which requires their equipment to be airlifted to set firing positions to conduct fire missions.”

Marne Air Soldiers were tasked to lift 10 M777 and four M119 howitzers with their CH-47 Chinook 30 feet off the ground for 10 seconds to support the 127 “Hickory’s Howitzers” Soldiers in their gunnery table II certification.

“This is preparation for what we are doing next month which is an air raid movement,” said Master Sgt. Luther Lewis, an operations noncommissioned officer in charge for 1-118th FA. “The training we are conducting now will be the foundation of our mission in Afghanistan.” 

Prior to any of the training, the CH-47 Chinook pilots talked to the “Hickory’s Howitzers” Soldiers and discussed safety and lift options.

“We looked into our sling load manual for the M777 and M119 howitzer to make sure that we understand what they should look like when they are rigged up,” Teixeira said. “How much they are going to weigh to what sling sets are hooked up to them, so we understand what we are getting ourselves into in terms of aircraft performance and torque.”

This training is not only for the pilots but the entire crew as well. The manning for an CH-47 Chinook requires two pilots and two crew chiefs.

“Our crew members are giving sling certification sheets from the ground unit but they still go out to look at those to make sure the load is not going to be damaged or damage the belly of the aircraft,” said Teixeira. “Maintaining safety throughout the entire training is one of our priorities.”

While the pilots take control of the aircraft, nothing else would get done without the crew chiefs making sure they guide the pilots on the load.

“We are the one who call the pilots over the load, call for the hook-up team when they hook up to the cargo hooks and when it is clear we call the aircraft up to pick up the sling load,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin McHugh, a crew chief for Co. B , 2-3 Avn. “We are basically in charge of the aircraft while we are doing any sling load operations.

As sling load operations continued McHugh was able to train his junior soldier in sling load operations.

“This is not my first time doing this type of training, I have been flying for 10 years and I have done it multiple times,” said McHugh. “My other crew chief with me was his first time with the M777 and M119 howitzers, he really liked the training and need the training for himself. It gives the pilots and crew members more sound awareness in sling load operation.”