WELLESLEY ISLAND, N.Y. (WWTI) — U.S. Army soldiers took the plunge into the St. Lawrence River.
This was during Army airborne helocast training on September 25 led by the 10th Mountain Division’s 41st Engineer Battalion.
Helocast is an airborne technique that allows light infantry units to insert themselves into an area of operation. This is done by jumping directly from Chinook helicopters into the water.
According to 1st Lieutenant John Darden, Jr., the officer in charge of the training, it helps prepare soldiers for situations they may face during deployment.
“It enables my soldiers to be able to understand what it’s like to actually do a water insertion,” 1LT Darden said. “We do that as combat engineers. If there were defenses that were on a coastline, or if we needed to go take out a bridge, this is a way that we could be inserted close to the enemy position while also trying to keep the cover available.”
According to the 41st Engineer Battalion, this training required months of planning and coordination. All to ensure the safety of their fellow soldiers.
“We spent a couple of months just reconning the flight path and actually getting people on the birds,” Company Commander Captain Erick Gacuma explained. “Then afterward we did a practice. One made sure that everybody was comfortable swimming, and then we’re actually executing today, two months later.”
Soldiers with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Drum also participated and seamen with the U.S. Coast Guard in Alexandria Bay assisted during the helocast.
“When we first jumped in, you’re like, ‘man this is cold,’ but then you start swimming, so it warms up. Very fun to do,” 1st Lieutenant Ryan Greaney with the 3-10 General Support Aviation Battalion expressed. “Watching our soldiers jump out the back as we’re in the water was even cooler.”
But the mission didn’t end with the jump. Soldiers also practiced swimming with their gear to further mimic combat situations.
Sergeant Thomas Chavez had never participated in a helocast until it came to the St. Lawrence River, but he said it was a valuable training experience.
“This is the training that I wish I had when I was a younger soldier,” SGT Chavez stated. “It teaches survivability for engineers. One of our big purposes in the Army is survivability. So I think it’s good getting out here and doing waterborne operations.”
Practicing for the real thing so they’re ready for any mission.
“It enables us to be able to do even more advanced and challenging maneuvers in the future,” 1LT Darden added. “It just enables us to have more tactical efficiency and then also coordination with air assets.”
The helocast training took place in the U.S. Narrows portion of the St. Lawrence River, between Wellesley Island and Alexandria Bay, New York.