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"Back to Basics"

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Since their return from Afghanistan, the 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 101st Sustainment Brigade, has been gone about the business of "getting back to the basics" of their mission.

They've spent a better part of the year getting re-familiar with the Avenger Weapon system, and certifying their Soldiers on handling the equipment this past June during a training exercise at Camp LeJeune, N.C. They recently took another step by conducting sling load training here at Fort Campbell.

Beginning at the crack of dawn, Soldiers from the battalion spent the past Thursday morning sling loading 12 Avenger weapons systems and getting them ready to be transported across Fort Campbell via UH-47 Chinook helicopters provided by the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.

The importance of the exercise was to showcase the battalion's ability to rapidly deploy equipment to any area where they are needed, said 1st Lt. Brian Nilles, executive officer, Alpha Battery, 2-44th ADA Regt., 101st Sust. Bde.

"The Avenger system is very top-heavy, and this training allows to become proficient at being able to sling-load it into remote areas to provide air defense coverage."

The battalion was on the verge of being de-activated two years ago, before being re-activated and deploying to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Nilles said this is the first time the battalion has conducted sling load operations since 2005. "We've been doing non-standard missions during the past 10 years, so getting back to doing our basic skill set of being able to perform our core strengths to our utmost is vital," he said.

The training went off without a hitch. Many Soldiers in the battalion were able to properly sling load their vehicles and get them ready for transport, while others received your standard on-the-job-training on how to get the system properly prepared.

This was the first time both Sgt. Dwane Davis and Pfc. John Rickel had ever conducted a sling load operation. A communication problem due to the noise from the Chinook resulted in them improperly slinging the vehicle. Fortunately for them, they were able to recognize the error and correct it quickly.
"The Chinook came from behind us ... we tried to hook up the front hook, but it's hard to hear up there and we hooked up the rear hook to the front of the Chinook first," said Davis, an Avenger Gunner team chief with Charlie Battery, 2-44th ADA Regt., 101st Sust. Bde.

"I tried to relay that to the team on the ground and we had to cut sling load. Once we corrected it, everything from there went smooth."

Rickel, a gunner assigned to Charlie Battery, 2-44th ADA Regt., 101st Sust. Bde., said the lesson he learned was to pay more attention to detail.

"I wasn't as focused as I should have been, but the problem was immediately recognized and managed to get it right without any detriment to the mission," he said.

Charlie Battery Platoon Sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Mitchell, described the training as "getting a foundation built for the house," as well as a learning process.

"Everything on the landing zone area is going great. It could be a little faster in terms of the guys off the LZ faster and policing up the area," he said.

Mitchell said this is where Air Assault training comes in handy for this type of exercise.

"We have a lot of troops out here that are fairly new and they fell into a battalion that was deploying, so they really didn't have time to go to the school," he said. "That course will definitely help them with training out here."

Article by Sgt. 1st Class Pete Mayes, Army.mil