SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, –
Members of Joint Task Force-Bravo and 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conducted helocast, caving ladder and overwater hoist training at Lake Yojoa, Honduras, Feb. 26, 2014.
The training was conducted in order to allow military members to maintain proficiency in a variety of skill sets as well as to prepare for future operations and exercises throughout Central America.
The training provided valuable experience for Task Force members from a variety of career fields. For the pilots of Joint Task Force-Bravo's 1-228th Aviation Regiment, the overwater operations provided a unique challenge and an opportunity to hone their aviation aptitude.
"This training is vital to maintain our operational flexibility to support Joint Task Force-Bravo and U.S. Southern Command's mission in the Central America area of responsibility," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. E.J. Irvin, 1-228th Commander. "We support special operations forces as well as other countries' defense forces which may require this capability. I need our pilots and crewmembers to be proficient in this skill set to mitigate risk."
Irvin said the helocast training, during which the helicopter pilot holds an altitude of 10 feet at 10 knots of forward airspeed above the water while service members jump from the helicopter into the water, requires a special skill set that not everyone has.
"It is a unique challenge for pilots to get used to being that low over the water and being that slow," said Irvin.
The three training events each required a different set of skills and presented different challenges to the participating service members.
The caving ladder, an extraction method, required service members to climb out of the water using a ladder lowered from a helicopter. The hoist training required flight medics to be lowered into the water from the helicopter on a cable to 'rescue' Task Force members from the water.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin Bashinski said the training was one of the best experiences of his Army career to date.
"As a communications officer, I don't typically get a lot of adrenaline-inducing experiences," said Bashinkski. "But for this exercise, I got to spend two days working with Special Forces members, culminating with jumping from a moving helicopter into a lake. It definitely opened my eyes to some of the incredible experiences that are part of being in the military, even if at the end of the day it's still considered 'training'."
According to U.S. Army 1st Lt. Joshua McFarland, participating in the training provided not only an opportunity to hone new skills, but also a chance to build his own water confidence and observe the proficiency of his fellow Task Force members.
"We have a lot of aviation assets, and a lot of what we do bring us near the water," said McFarland. "I feel comfortable knowing that if for some unfortunate reason I end up stranded in the water, two things will happen. First, I will be able to survive and second, the 1-228th pilots and their crews will be able to safely recover me."
In all, more than 30 members of Joint Task Force-Bravo participated in what was deemed a highly successful training exercise.