50th Multi Role Bridge Company takes to air, water for training Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 July 2013
Story and photo by Sgt. Kelly Malone
Special to GUIDON

Bridge and boat crews with 50th Multi Role Bridge Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, conducted training for sling-load operations at the Lake of Ozarks Recreation Area near Linn Creek, Mo., as part of the unit’s annual training requirement, June 26.
Soldiers from the 50th MRBC move to secure a section of bridge material after the 14,000- pound section was dropped off by a CH47 Chinook helicopter during training June 26 at Lake of the Ozarks.

“The purpose of today’s training is to increase our mission essential task skills,” said 1st Lt. James Vidal, 50th MRBC first platoon leader.

“One of our core tasks as bridge crew members is being able to build a six-float bridge so we can load personnel and equipment and move it to the far-side shore.”

Sling load operation uses a helicopter, or “bird,” to lift staged bridge bay equipment from a pick-up zone and transports it to a drop zone on the water.

“We’re building a six-float raft and each bay weighs 14,000 pounds,” said Staff Sgt. Rondal Godfrey, 50th MRBC senior boat operator.

The bird flies into the pick-up zone where four personnel wait on top of the bridge bay. Two Soldiers hook up the slings and one hooks up the grounding rod. The grounding rod absorbs the static electricity created by the helicopter rotors and if it isn’t discharged it can create a harmful shock.The fourth person oversees that everything is going right, normally as the noncommissioned officer-in-charge, but the duties can be delegated to senior enlisted on the site. A fifth team member on the ground visually guides the bird, explains Godfrey.

Regular training is key to the unit’s proficiency.

“By being able to do training, it enhances our task force’s overall ability to accomplish their mission and increase their speed of crossing sites, Vidal said. “Time is extremely important because you have to get that task force to the objective by a certain time. So this training is crucial.”

There is a unique series of events during sling load operations once the equipment is deployed at the drop zone.

“For a six-float build we’ll have three boats in the drop zone at a bare minimum, with two personnel in each boat.  Then there will be a build crew of roughly six to ten personnel,” Godfrey said.

The bays land in the water in the closed configuration and a lanyard pin on the last latch keeps the bay in this position. In the water, a boat crew pulls the lanyard pin and the bay unfolds or “pops open.” Once open, the crew moves this section of bridging material to the build area away from the drop zone and prepares to connect it with other open bays, Godfrey said.

The training concludes with the crews disassembling the bridge bays and loading them onto transport vehicles, said Spc. Iris Perez, 50th MRBC bridge crew member.

(Editor’s note: Malone is a photojournalist assigned to the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs Office.)

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 July 2013 )