Smiles lit up on Soldiers faces as they clinched their cavaliers to shield themselves from the rotor wash produced by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from C Company, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.

Soldiers from 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade held its first-ever air assault field training exercise July 31.

“This unit has never done any training like this before,” Sgt. Devante McClean, a multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer and non-commissioned officer in charge of the field training exercise attached to 62nd Expeditionary Signal Brigade, said. “There were a lot of risk factors involved, especially involving safety. We made sure our team was properly trained in sling load operations and we had extra safety.”

While planning the FTX, McClean worked with Air Assault cadre to give him baseline knowledge when it came to requesting equipment and preparing landing zones, he said.

As an Air Assault graduate, McClean’s first idea for the FTX was to prepare Soldiers for the academic and physical rigor of the actual Air Assault 11-day course. Over time, his vision became bigger.

“Our goal now is to prepare the unit for further sling load missions and to use that as a capability in future training,” said McClean “We have our big field training coming up – Defender 2020 – and that is a capability we would like to do to make our teams more expeditionary and agile.”

Sgt. Miguel Castillo, multichannel transmission systems operator-maintainer, attached to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th TTSB, was invited by Mcclean to help inspect the loads and complete safety evaluations, he said.

Castillo said he hopes in the future, signal Soldiers will continue to do this type of training exercise more often.

“It’s good for all Soldiers to know sling load operations because it helps with readiness and being an all-around good Soldier,” Castillo, said. “The more a Soldier knows, the more lethal they will be.”

Training proved to be essential in the overall execution of the exercise.

“The Soldiers were provided with plenty of training before this operation so they did really great,” Castillo said.

I encourage all Soldiers to take part of this kind of training while its available and free, he said.

Many of the junior enlisted Soldiers enjoyed the exercise as it broke up the monotony of their everyday duties.

“The training was really fun – something different out of my normal day to day- administrative tasks,” Pfc. Cameron Wilson, microwave systems installer-maintainer, attached to HHC, 11th TTSB, said.

Wilson was an active participant in the exercise, completing hand and arm signals to guide the loads, as well as sling loading vehicles and generators.

Wilson believes this was a good learning experience – having that knowledge to be able to pass on to other Soldiers, he said.

The exercise even inspired Soldiers to go to Air-Assault School and pick up a new skill.

“This exercise inspired me to go to Air-Assault School,” Wilson said. “I was on the fence about it, but this peaked my interest, definitely.”

Although this was the brigade’s first air assault FTX, the Soldiers look forward to more to come.

“For this to be the first time, the Soldiers did outstanding,” McClean said. “After getting into the training and trust the equipment, the Soldiers became invigorated to get out there and get after it. We definitely look forward to the next exercise.”