FORT WAINWRIGHT, AK – Thirteen operators from a west-coast based SEAL team performed final checks on their equipment as a one-minute warning bell rang shrilly throughout the hull of the CH-47D “Chinook.”
After descending steeply, the helicopter’s back ramp dropped, and the SEAL team sprinted from the Chinook with their weapons up, setting up security as the helicopter lifted out of its two-wheel landing and began circling in the air before landing again to repeat the procedure.
The SEAL team worked with Army pilots from Task Force 49, 1-52 Aviation Battalion, B Company, also known as the “Sugar Bears,” in a training evolution designed to promote and develop interoperability between the two branches. The exercise was part of Exercise Northern Edge 2009, which is one of a series of U.S. Pacific Command exercises that prepare joint forces to respond to crises in the Asian Pacific region.
Because Fort Wainwright’s Striker brigade is currently in Iraq, the pilots aboard the Chinook used this evolution to practice troop transportation and dropping troops while using a two-wheel landing.
“Troops transportation is a large part of what we do, but something we have not been able to train for lately,” said Capt. Thomas Pierce, a Chinook pilot with Sugar Bears. “Having these guys in the back added an element of realism unattainable with our ground units currently deployed.”
Landing on two wheels allows pilots to drop troops in confined spaces that do not allow for conventional landings, added Pierce. Pilots use this technique often when landing in mountainous terrain and on roof tops.
Although the training evolution provided a good training opportunity for the Army pilots, they were not the only ones who gained from the experience.
“We rarely get the chance to work with the Chinooks, so this is a good chance to familiarize ourselves with the airframe, and how to get on it and off it quickly,” said Darrin, a SEAL who’s rank and last name are withheld to protect his identity. “We use this airframe to get us to the fight and to get us out.”
The pilots inserted the SEAL s at three different locations. At each location, the SEAL team practiced exiting the aircraft quickly, establishing security and properly reboarding the aircraft while maintaining a security element. This evolution is one of several the SEAL team will participate in while attending NE09.