JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- An Alaska Army National Guard CH-47F Chinook helicopter from the 211th General Support Aviation Battalion transported a skid-steer loader by way of slingload, July 27, from Nikolai to Telida, two villages located in the Alaskan interior.
The movement of the skid-steer loader to the remote community of Telida was provided through the Innovative Readiness Training program. The IRT program seeks to address certain needs in America’s communities while simultaneously providing training for the U.S. military.
The skid-steer loader will be utilized in the maintenance of Telida’s runway enabling flights carrying goods and personnel to land throughout the year. However, being a nine-hour boat trip upriver from Nikolai, the village of Telida has no way of receiving large equipment over land.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Christopher Best, the pilot in command, said that it is fairly common for Chinooks to haul unconventional loads due to the versatility of the rotary-wing aircraft. Capable of slingloading up to 26,000 pounds from the center hook, the CH-47F Chinook was an ideal solution for moving the steer-skid loader to a village inaccessible by road.
“Like most missions, it’s never simple,” said Best. “In a perfect world the loader would have fit in the back of the aircraft but, it had to be slingloaded because it was too large. That added a few more logistical complications and additional personnel needed to ensure the load was situated properly.”
For a slingload the cargo is rigged to be suspended from the helicopter and flown from point A to point B, which can be over large expanses of terrain. This particular IRT mission was an opportunity for the crew to train in the attachment and transportation of a slingoad with a cargo net.
Taking into account their training and experience, the crew determined a route following the Kuskokwim river drainage in case landing with the loader would prove necessary. With a favorable tailwind, the chinook delivered its cargo in forty minutes over a distance of 35 miles.
“Aviation units are used to performing missions for other units,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Maddox, flight instructor for the Chinook crew. “It tends to be the same time and time again, but when communities have specialized missions for us to accomplish, we accept the missions to help broaden our skill set and help the community at the same time.”
Each IRT mission presents unique situations and demands that coincide with the environment in which the Guardsmen reside and the population they serve.
“I think these mission types truly do contribute to mission readiness,” said Best. “The missions are often exercises in patience, planning, and teamwork on a completely different playing field than our regular deployed mission set. This enables us to think outside the box and problem solve in an entirely different realm.”
In addition to enhancing deployment readiness, the IRT program fosters the relationships between the Guardsmen and the people of Alaska.
“As National Guardsmen, we are already an integral part of our communities,” said Best. “Here in Alaska, we just enjoy being out in the communities and doing anything we can to help.”