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Afghan base security upgraded via sling load

By Staff Sgt. Nadine Y. Barclay , 438th Air Expeditionary Wing

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KABUL, Afghanistan (March 3, 2012) — A multinational joint team of 19 U.S. airmen from the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, soldiers from U.S. Army Task Forces Griffin, Centre and Spearhead, and Italian army security forces partnered to execute a special equipment transfer from Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan, to the small forward operating base of Buji, Afghanistan, 95 miles south, Feb. 6-8, 2012.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems used to monitor perimeter fence lines for enemy activity or potential threats were transferred to Buji by a series of ‘sling loads’ - cargo suspended in the air from the base of a helicopter - for the force protection mission of Task Force Southeast and the Italian army stationed there. Among the challenges of this type of transfer of technical equipment valued at $3.4 million dollars were the correct discharge of static electricity generated by propeller movement and overall stable aircraft movement.

“This is the first time in the two years since going to the career field of air assault that I was able to do something like this, and it was a thrill,” said Army 1st Lt. William Bolton, the base defense operations center flight commander deployed with the 838th AEAG. 

The equipment was transferred to Shindand AB on short notice when a CH-47F Chinook helicopter that was scheduled to carry the equipment from Herat, Afghanistan, to Buji could not make the round trip. The C-130 Hercules arrived at Shindand Air Base because Buji could not accept a plane big enough to carry the systems, said officials. 

“We did not know what equipment we were getting. I was on the edge of my seat until I found out that the equipment was something I knew,” said Bolton. 

The two complete ISR systems consisted of towers, trailers and conexes. The task would take multiple two-hour flights from Shindand to Buji. During the transfer, one of the legs on the sling set started rubbing up against the trailer during the flight to Buji.

“After sending the second tower, we got the call that one of the slings broke. My jaw dropped, and I immediately asked the flight crew if the equipment was going to make it. All we got was that they were close to base, and it should make it,” said Bolton. 

“After assessing the damage, it was found that the rubber at the end of it was peeled off. This could have been very bad,” said Bolton. “Fortunately, it must have happened towards the end of the flight and never became a bigger problem.” 

All equipment was safely delivered to the FOB on time and without incident. 

“As much as we use our ISR systems here at Shindand, I feel this equipment will increase the force protection levels at their base for all coalition forces and assets stationed there,” said Bolton.