Oct. 4 , 2010

Warrior Training Center teaches Pathfinder to Guardsmen 

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen        
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va.— A five-man mobile training team from the Fort Benning-based Army National Guard’s Warrior Training Center taught the U.S. Army Pathfinder Course to 47 National Guard Soldiers at Fort Pickett Sept. 11-24. The course is designed to teach the students how to set up and operate drop zones, pick up zones, and helicopter landing zones for airborne operations.


Soldiers of the Army National Guard Warrior Training Center show students in the U.S. Army Pathfinder School the finer points of Verbal Initiated Release System and sling load operations Sept. 20 during the two-week training course at Fort Pickett. During the course the students will become subject matter experts on aircraft drop zones for cargo and personnel. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Click HERE to see more photos from the event on the Virginia National Guard Flickr site.

During the first phase of the course the students are taught air traffic control procedures, aero medical evacuation procedures and map marking. The students learn everything they need to know about the different types of aircraft platforms and what their individual capabilities are during medevac procedures, according to Sgt. 1st Class Troy Richardson, an instructor from the WTC.

The next phase of the course puts the students through three days of mastering sling load operations. They are given a written test as well as a practical application test on the information they learn during the sling load phase.

“They learn sling load theory, and they learn how wind, speed, and the weight of the load affect the aerodynamics of the load being carried,” said Richardson. 

Upon completion of the sling load phase, the students go on to learn the finer points of setting up drop zones, landing zones, and helicopter pick up zones.

“You learn some of this stuff in Air Assault School,” he said. “But we go in to full detail at Pathfinder school.”

The two-week course is spent mostly in the classroom learning the theories of the techniques and skills that are taught. All the phases of the course involve hands-on application of the lessons taught and the course culminates in a field training exercise where the students are expected to apply all of the skills they were taught in the classroom.

Pathfinders are expected to graduate the course as subject matter experts in the control of aircrafts over landing zones, drop zones and pick up zones and should be proficient in controlling an aircraft making personnel and supply drops over various terrains, according to Capt. Robert Denton, a student in the course. 

“It’s been a very challenging course,” said Deaton. “The academic load is very, very high, and we have a written exam almost every day or every other day.”

“We probably spend anywhere from 18-20 hours a day either in class, or studying at night.”

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