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NEWS | Aug. 20, 2015

Army South Soldiers learn the art of building and loading a pallet

U.S. Army South

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 Transportation regulations.

“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 and loading.

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 movement.

“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.