30 from 412th use Chinook for quick trip to Camp Shelby

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 6, 2002

Troops from the U.S. Army Reserve 412th Engineer Command board a Chinook helicopter at the Vicksburg Airport Sunday on their way to Camp Shelby.(The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[05/06/02]Hurricane-force winds swept through the air Sunday morning at Vicksburg Municipal Airport as a Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter hovered above.

A resounding “hoo-ah,” a sound of approval, could be heard as 30 troops from the 412th Engineer Command Army Reserve climbed aboard the Vietnam-era chopper.

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With them, four crew members with the Army National Guard in Meridian boarded the twin-turbine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift transport helicopter to head to Camp Shelby Army National Training Site for a daylong live-fire exercise in weapon qualifications. Camp Shelby is about 30 miles south of Hattiesburg.

Maj. Melody Harrington, spokesman for the 412th, said all soldiers, no matter what speciality, must qualify with their assigned weapons every year and that was the purpose of Sunday’s trip.

“We are not going anywhere, we are not that type of unit,” Harrington said of the possibility of the group being dispatched to a war zone across the world.

“This exercise tests your basic requirement with your personal weapon,” 412th Engineer Command Chief of Staff Col. Larry Harper said. Harper said 30 troops from the 412th were already at Camp Shelby participating in the M-16 A1 Rifle and 9mm pistol range fire.

Before boarding the helicopter, the troops underwent a safety briefing from Army National Guard Sgt. Ronnie Payne.

“In case of emergency, does everyone know the proper crash position?” Payne asked before demonstrating the technique.

Ear plugs for the 40-minute journey were passed out as a final provision.

“We will enter the aircraft at a 45-degree angle because of the heat and wind coming off the engine,” Payne said.

Normally, troops with the 412th Engineer Command travel on a bus for weapon-qualification destinations.

“This is the first year the dates and missions matched up so that we could travel in the Chinook,” Harrington said, adding that the Guardsmen flying the Chinook helicopter were training as well while flying the craft.

The Boeing CH-47 Chinook, sometimes called the “Hook,” flies at a speed of about 120 knots, 138 mph, and about 1,500 feet high. It can carry up to 50,000 pounds, and each of the three blades weighs 450 pounds. Empty, the craft weighs just more than 23,000 pounds.

“It is the strongest Army helicopter we have,” Payne said.

Harrington said the flight was originally scheduled for Saturday but a weather ceiling caused safety alarms. The heavy fog was “not optimal for a training mission, ” she said.

The Chinook’s principal U.S. Army mission is movement of troops, artillery, ammunition, fuel, water, barrier materials, supplies and equipment on the battlefield and is being used in the United States’ War on Terrorism in Afghanistan.

The Boeing Company in Philadelphia manufactures and modernizes the Chinook helicopter for the U.S Army, Army Reserves, National Guard and international customers.