Army Engineers Drop Into Arkansas River for Assault Exercise

July 24, 2018

The CH-47D Chinook helicopter is the Army’s primary troop and supply transport aircraft.

Introduced in 1962, Chinooks feature twin rotor blades and 42 cubic meters of cargo space.

This legendary aircraft is supporting the Army Reserve’s River Assault 2018 exercise on the Arkansas River with a helocast drop for the soldiers of the 420th Engineer Brigade.

“We have the flight crews for two CH-47s flying at 10 feet, 10 knots,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Gay, a subject matter expert with the Army’s Sapper Leader Course. “The real-world environment that the helocast will provide will be the infill for any unit. It’s an engineer task, but all units can do it.”

Held July 22 outside Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, this training mission involved dropping 170 reservists into the Arkansas River with nothing more than a uniform and safety vest.

“It wasn’t scary at all,” said Army Pfc. Crystal Rothman, a fueler with Forward Support Company, 489th Engineer Battalion. “Everybody thought the water was going to be cold. It was not cold — it was pretty warm, actually. There’s a long swim to the shore, though.”


Helocasting is an insertion technique developed by airborne troops whereby soldiers step off the aircraft’s rear ramp at low altitude and low speed directly into the water below. Preparation for the exercise included checks on swimming skill and clear directions from the instructors.

“For the first training, they took us to a pool,” Rothman said. “It was about nine feet deep. They wanted you to do a ‘dead man’s’ float, and then swim from corner to corner all the way around the pool to make sure that you’re going to be okay for this jump.”

“You don’t have to be airborne qualified or go to a school,” Gay said. “You spend 20-30 minutes here on the ground with a cast master or senior instructor and you can be able to exit the aircraft into any water at any time. So, it’s the fastest way to get soldiers in.”

Elements from the Army Reserve and active-duty Army came together to make this training possible, with guest instructors from the Sapper Leader Course on-site and additional support from the Army’s Deep Sea Dive Team.

The helocast offers “a once-in-a-lifetime feeling for some of these guys,” said Army Capt. Stephen Potter, commander for the 806th Engineer Company. “Getting them out of the helicopters into the water, I think that’s a really cool opportunity, great training for them to have.”