Rare Statewide Training Exercise Held at Fort Chaffee

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A statewide joint training exercise brought together troops from Fort Smith, Booneville and Little Rock on Saturday.

Soldiers from the Arkansas Army National Guard's Fort Smith- based, 1st Battalion, 142nd Field Artillery, the 217th Brigade Support Battalion out of Booneville and the Camp Robinson-based 77th Theater Aviation Brigade all came together for a sling loading exercise, aimed at transporting heavy objects through the air.

"We did a sling operations, picking up a 500-pound water blivet and Humvee," explained SSgt. James Johnson, with the 217th Brigade Support Battalion.

The exercise is something soldiers usually see for the first time overseas in combat.

"This is a very rare training opportunity," Johnson said. "It's good to get the 142nd, Fort Chaffee, and the 217th involved, because it keeps us mission ready and allows the 142nd to answer any call that comes our way."

The soldiers, learning how to transport vehicles and water in the air as opposed to on the ground.

"This is an excellent training for our organization," Capt. Tim Stith, with the 217th Brigade Support Battalion said. The 217th, as a support battalion, we provide all of the logistical assets for all of the units that are maneuvering on the battlefield. So this is exactly what we would do in combat."

To lift the Humvee and the water blivet by helicopter, the soldiers had to use sling-load cables.

"The Humvee was about 5,600 pounds and the water blivet was full with 500 gallons of water in it," Stith said. "So with the weight of the water blivet, it was about 4,800."

The soldiers, learning how to better use air support in preparation for certain situations they could encounter overseas.

"I've seen it in combat, but this is a very good training for soldiers maybe going down range," Johnson said.

"For a ground guy, I like being on the ground a little better than being in the air," Stith explained. "That's because I'm just not in the air that often. But you know we train hard. We train for it. And we'll go over there and do what we have to do."

The helicopters flew to another field where they successfully unloaded the Humvee and water blivet.

"They do hand and arm signals for the aircraft to bring it in," Stith said. "They hopefully don't drop it any more than about 4 inches from the aircraft. That's a successful mission if we get that done."

The exercise from start to finish lasted about two hours. This was the first time the 77th and 217th have worked together in a joint operation.

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