FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
Building and loading a pallet might seem a rudimentary
skill, but a group of 20 U.S. Army South Soldiers at Fort Sam Houston learned it’s
more complex and requires more proficiency to prepare mass quantities of
supplies to move during air cargo lifts.
The 463L pallet system, one designed for the use in
aircrafts, provides deploying units with the ability to consolidate loose or
bulk cargo and efficiently move it on a strategic airlift.
Army South Soldiers received instructions at the command’s
headquarters July 23 on how to inspect, build and document a proper 463L pallet
in accordance with unit air movement planning guidelines and Department of
“When you are building a pallet, don’t think of it as, ‘it’s
just my cargo.’ Think about it as, ‘I might be sitting in that aircraft I just
loaded with these pallets or these pieces of equipment and I want it to be as safe
as possible,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Michael Haynes, Army South staff
movement noncommissioned officer to the class participants.
Haynes repeatedly stressed the safety of the aircraft and
personnel traveling aboard it as the number one reason for accurate building
It is the units’ responsibility to prepare the pallets with
the items strapped down to be loaded to the airplane. Because Army South
supports multiple deployments to South America and the Caribbean, it’s
important to teach Soldiers the correct way to build a pallet.
The 463L pallet is made of a lightweight durable material,
used to load and transport bulk material by aircraft. Part of the pallet is a
set of nets in different sizes that will be used for different purposes when
building the cargo.
During the training, Soldiers learned how to use the right
type of nets for the right weight and height of cargo and the correct way to
hook the net to the rings on the pallet in order to strap down the cargo. In
addition, they were also taught to place the heaviest items in the middle, so
the center of balance does not affect a forklift or the aircraft during
“The most important thing I learned during this class would
have to be inspection of your equipment,” said Sgt. Brian Watts, Army South
human resource specialist.
As a trained and experienced movement NCO, Haynes trained
students on the setbacks that can occur when a pallet is not built the right
way. He said the effect can be detrimental to a unit’s mission.
“When building a 463L pallet the smallest detail makes a big
difference on the safety of the cargo as a whole,” Haynes stressed.
Haynes has seen common mistakes like pallet builders using
the wrong side of the net to strap down the gear, not checking all parts of the
pallet, including the net, for serviceability or not storing hazardous
materials in the right position for easier accessibility and inspection.
On top of building
restraining the cargo on the aircraft is equally important in an air
movement mission, due to the possibility of cargo shifting during flight.
According to Hanes, cargo shifting mid-flight may cause the
aircraft to change the center of balance, resulting in a possible crash.
Having deployed to
Iraq and assisted in the process of building pallets before, Watts
shared the importance of shipping and receiving gear safely.
“Proper pallet building and loading is important not only
for the safety of personnel but for the safety of the equipment being
transferred,” Watts said.