166th AV to Execute Helocast During Best Ranger Competition
First Army is hosting its very own Best Ranger Competition here this week to select a team to go on to compete nationally next spring at the Army's Best Ranger Competition at Fort Benning, Ga.
For the average individual, the two days of competition would appear to be comprised of fairly grueling activities. But, the competitors are not your ordinary, everyday Soldiers. They are Ranger-qualified personnel with the drive and aptitude to compete vigorously to become the next best Rangers.
"This is an all-encompassing test that measures the Soldiers' full Army skill set in a crunch-time environment," said Capt. Steven Wax of the 166th Aviation Brigade's operations section.
Two teams consisting of two Soldiers each - one team from Division West and one team from Division East - will conduct 12- and eight-mile foot marches, a 2 1/2-mile buddy run, an obstacle course, a 400-meter swim, and more. The teams will maneuver post-wide across Fort Hood's vast terrain, and even into the greater Belton community, with a panel of judges assessing them both objectively and subjectively.
The objective standard measures an overall pass or fail, Wax said, while the subjective criteria include motivation, determination, attention to detail and "intestinal fortitude."
To facilitate the competition, First Army brigades are coordinating and overseeing designated events. What makes the competition so unique for the 166th Aviation Brigade, in particular, is the unit's role in the helocast event.
Helocasting is a technique used to insert individuals or small teams into a body of water via helicopter.
"Typically, the bird hovers at approximately 10 knots and 10 feet above the water's surface, allowing a Soldier to jump tactically out of the helicopter into the body of water, and then (continue to) his objective," said Sgt. 1st Class Vincent Adler Jr., 166th Aviation Brigade Operations.
During a Texas summer, helocasting could be a cool and refreshing activity. But, this time of year, temperatures are starting to drop.
"Recently, we've seen temperatures in the Belton Lake run in the low sixties," Adler said. "Medics are located on-site to ensure that those participating do not suffer any cold weather injuries, among other things."
Once the contestants are inserted, they will swim to shore and immediately delve into their next event. The entire two-day sequence of events is run on a back-to-back schedule from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Until the First Army Best Ranger Competition, the 166th Aviation Brigade, which trains and validates Reserve units for deployments, had not executed a helocast as part of training, according to Wax.
"Today, thanks to this experience, the unit now has eight air crew members trained on helocast operations," Wax said.
Having four pilots and four air crew members helocast-trained has an impact on the greater Fort Hood community, according to Lt. Col. Philip Graham, 166th Aviation Brigade executive officer.
"The 166th Aviation can now support other units with helocast training, which is a realistic aspect of what we might face downrange," Graham said.
The logistics involved in planning and executing a helocast are very in-depth. For example, civilians from Morgan's Point Fire and Rescue, local Army medics, Fort Hood safety control personnel, as well as a helocast master, are all required to be present to ensure proper safety measures are taken.
Command Sgt. Maj. William Simpson, Division West Operations, places tantamount importance on safety and support to the competitors. In concert with the 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West has conducted multiple in-process reviews, reconnaissance and rehearsals to ensure command and control teams could be effectively emplaced "in case anything adverse occurs," Simpson said.
"Although only two teams are competing," Simpson said, "they deserve our undivided attention and support."
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