101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Gold Book

Chapter 4

Loading and Staging Operations (PZ)

1. Air assaults do not succeed on the PZ, but they can fail there. The PZ must be established and run to standard. Anything less endangers the mission before the first shot is fired.

2. We organize our assault force on the PZ, not the LZ. Every serial must be a self-contained force that understands what it must do on landing at either the primary or alternate LZ, and later in executing the GTP. In brigade air assaults, we designate one light PZ (UH-60L serials, personnel and slingloads) and one heavy PZ (CH-47D serials). When necessary, we will designate a light and heavy PZ per infantry battalion, but this is the exception, not the rule.

3. Staging establishes the pickup zone and moves the troops and loads there. Loading executes the PZ for the air assault. Both the heavy vehicle and artillery slingloads are staged in the heavy PZ, which is run by the DS Field Artillery Bn XO, assisted by the heavy assault LNO.


The UH-60 PZ is known as the light PZ, and the CH-47 PZ is known as the heavy PZ. Both PZs stage and load both troops and slingloaded vehicles, equipment, and supplies (both UH-60s and CH-47s can lift slingloads from their respective PZs).

1. The staging plan. Whenever tactically sound, stage in daylight. A night PZ occupation ensures friction. Some considerations for PZ layout are:

a. Choose PZs by personal reconnaissance, aerial imagery, and updated maps.

b. Consider security, size, and simplicity.

c. Separate CH-47 (heavy) and UH-60 (light) PZs.

d. Remove or mark obstacles.

e. Consider dust and debris vicinity landing/hook-up points.

f. Consider cover when choosing troop entry and staging areas.

g. Consider vehicle entry and staging (no mud or restricted terrain).

h. Always try to limit the depth of PZ from a suitable vehicle LOC (plan on standard 5xUH-60 light serials and 4xCH-47 heavy serials).

2. PZ Control (responsible for all actions on the PZ).

a. Emplace for best command, control, and overwatch of PZ operations (Locate on high ground to maximize radio reception and visibility).

b. Ensure positive communications are established with the C2 Aircraft (AATFC and AMC) and each serial commander. Based on the location of the C2 aircraft ROZ, line-of-site communications (FM/UHF) may not be possible. TACSAT should be the primary means in this instance.

c. Understand and be ready to execute the bump plan.

d. Employ the entire PZ chain of action (see loading plan below).

e. For a brigade PZ, the brigade XO is the OIC.

f. The supporting effort infantry battalion XO is the light PZ OIC (assisted by assault LNO).

j. The DS FA XO is the heavy PZ OIC (assisted by the heavy assault LNO).

k. Brigade PZ control erects the PZ update tent and runs the PZ rehearsal. The assault LNO’s assist.

l. Brigade PZ control serves as C2 node for all PZs. It locates where it can best command and control all aircraft.

m. Stage CH-47 CASEVAC and spares on the heavy PZ. Stage spare, C2, and MEDEVAC UH60’s as close as possible to brigade PZ control.

n. Provide one cargo truck (LMTV-type) with necessary security for EPW evacuation.

o. Provide one ambulance with medics at PZ control for emergency response.

p. Provide one cargo truck (LMTV-type) configured for casualty evacuation from returning aircraft.

3. Figure 4-1 on page 4-3 depicts who normally communicates over the radio nets during PZ operations.












FIGURE 4-1, Command and Control


























4. PZ vehicles and aircraft will monitor the following frequencies while at the PZ:





PRC 129


















































(C2 Spare)

Figure 4-2, PZ Nets

5. Methods of marking.

a. Night PZ markings.

(1) Far recognition: The far recognition signal will be one member of the hook-up team positioned on top of each load to be hooked up on that lift swinging a chemlight tied to the end of a 3 foot cord. This signal helps pilots identify what loads are going to be slung on that lift, IAW the AMT and PZ diagram.

(2) Near recognition: The near recognition signal will be the inverted "Y". It will be constructed by utilization of chemlights or cone flashlights and will mark the lead touchdown point for the first serial. The inverted "Y" should be positioned so the lead aircraft will land 25 meters to the left rear of the first load.

(3) Reference lights: Reference lights will be used when PZ conditions, such as tall vegetation or dust, inhibit the aircrew from performing a rapid and safe hook-up. The reference lights will consist of two lights, such as chemlights, anchored in the ground on the centerline of the load. The first light will be placed 25 meters in front of the load, and the second light will be placed 5 meters in front of the first light. The signal man, if used, should stand adjacent to the farthest light. Depending on the height of the ground cover (high grass, soy beans, etc.) the lights may have to be elevated off the ground to be seen.

b. Day PZ markings. The lead aircraft will land 25 meters to the left rear of the first load. Pickup points will be marked by the presence of a hook-up/static probe team, a signal man, and a load.

c. Pilots cannot see blue chemlights under NVGs. Use blue chemlights for infantry staging purposes only.

d. Always use red, orange, yellow, or IR for aircraft positions, but all aircraft must have the same color chemlight.

e. Use IR strobe for far recognition only.

f. Units preparing to air assault will not use red, orange, yellow, or IR chemlights for their own purposes while on the PZ. This will confuse the pilots. (i.e. no chemlights in helmets, at troop assembly areas, or for light sources). See Figure 4-3.

Figure 4-3, PZ Marking Methods

6. Staging specifics.

a. Whenever tactically sound stage sling loads in daylight. Staging at night is more difficult.

b. Always guide chalks to their stage position. Absolute positive control of all chalks 100% of the time. Ensure chalks do not fall asleep on the PZ.

c. Plan on 4 hours to stage a heavy PZ and 3 hours for a light PZ. (Daylight)

d. Require chalk leaders to report early to PZ for chalk leader orientation.

7. Rigging inspection.

a. Drivers and TCs are responsible for their load.

b. Pathfinders will not be used to check loads on the PZ. This is an air assault soldier’s skill.

c. Assault LNO’s will spot-check the loads on their respective PZ’s

d. NCOICs must inspect all loads. (Slingload inspection requirements currently under review)

e. Rucksack nets: verify that the open top of each is secure.

8. Manifest plan: Chalk leaders must provide two copies of manifests. All chalk leaders will maintain one complete manifest. The other manifest is provided to PZ control upon chalk check-in.

9. MEDEVAC plan: Each PZ maintains one aid station (including an ambulance with medical personnel and a dedicated CASEVAC truck). The unit running the PZ is responsible for providing the ambulance, the CASEVAC LMTV, and medics. In addition, at brigade level, the FSB provides two ambulances and associated medical personnel, a CASEVAC truck, and a treatment team for the casualty backhaul contingency at the FARP and any additional PZ’s. Typically, the brigade XO collocates medical assets under his control at PZ control.

10. PZ diagram. At a minimum, the following items must be included in the PZ diagram. This will enable aircrews, PZ Control, and the crisis action teams (CATs) to clearly understand the organization of the PZ:

a. PZ name.

b. Grid coordinate – 8 digit.

c. PZ control CALLSIGN/frequency.

d. PZ control location.

e. Go around direction.

f. Hazards.

g. Load diagrams in their relative position on the PZ.

h. Load nomenclatures, including number of personnel per load, and unit being lifted.

i. Load numbers in accordance with the priority of the load.

j. Destination LZ for each load/serial.

k. North seeking arrow.

l. Landing direction.

m. A2C2 information.



The loading plan is a systematic process requiring both positive and procedural control from the Chain of Action. Contingencies must be rehearsed at the PZ rehearsal. Crisis action teams (CATs) make the difference between success and failure.

1. Chain of action. Figure 4-4 is a schematic of the PZ chain of action.

Figure 4-4, PZ Chain of Action

2. Crisis action teams (CATs).

a. Provide Senior NCO experience and leadership.

b. Most familiar with all hook-up procedures and rigging for all equipment.

c. Drawn from the rear echelon forces, these must be smart soldiers capable of rapidly solving problems on an active PZ.

d. PZ OICs must be able to handle situations that may arise with bad rigging, sleeping soldiers, stuck vehicles, etc.

e. Designate at least one CAT per two loads. The CATs move between serials as each serial is lifted.

3. Communications plan.

a. The Brigade PZ control will use a PZ control net as assigned in the ANCD to communicate with subordinate PZ controls.

b. Subordinate PZ controls (Heavy and light) will use their battalion admin/logistics frequency for the duration of PZ operations to conduct ground to air communication.

c. Crisis action teams must have continuous radio communications with PZ control. These teams will normally use the AN/PRC-127 hand held radio to communicate with PZ control or an FM radio on a frequency other than the PZ control nets.

d. PZ control nets will be frequency hop secure.

e. CH-47 aircrews will provide a headset for communication with each chalk leader to verify destination LZ name, LZ grid coordinates, and aircraft/load chalk number. Chalk leaders will provide the aircraft pilots with a 3x5 card confirming the name and 8-digit grid coordinate for the LZ.

f. Inbound to the PZ, the aircrew will establish initial communication with the PZ control officer and transmit the following information:

(1) CALLSIGN of PZ control.

(2) CALLSIGN – Corresponding to the serial number and chalk number of the aircraft.

(3) Number of aircraft in the serial.

(4) Line number – Corresponding to the AMT.

g. Following initial communication with the aircraft, the PZ control officer will respond with the following information:

(1) CALLSIGN of aircraft.

(2) CALLSIGN of PZ control.

(3) Line number – Corresponding to the AMT.

(4) Load numbers – Corresponding to both the AMT and PZ diagram.

h. Sample radio call on PZ Control net with no changes from what was briefed:

ACFT to PZ Control: "PZ Pine this is Predator 11 with 4 aircraft for line 1, over"

PZ Control to ACFT: "Predator 11 this is PZ Pine, execute as briefed"

i. Sample radio call on PZ Control net with changes in number of aircraft:

ACFT to PZ Control: "PZ Maple, this is Varsity 22 with only 3 aircraft for line 2, over"

PZ Control to ACFT: "Varsity 22, this is PZ Maple, execute line 2, loads 5, 6, and 7"

j. Sample radio call on PZ control net with changes to the loads to be carried:

ACFT to PZ control: "PZ Oak, this is Outlaw 33 with 4 aircraft for line 3, over"

PZ control to ACFT: "Outlaw 33 this is PZ Oak, execute line 3, loads 8, 9, 10, and 11"

4. Contingencies. Plan for the following:

a. Hot PZ. Always secure the PZ. The rear echelon or follow on echelon forces are best suited for this task. The same combat forces that will escort the ground convoy make excellent security forces. This contingency will always be planned and rehearsed at the brigade PZ rehearsal.

b. Broken loads.

c. Broken hooks.

d. Backhaul of casualties.

e. Disabled aircraft.

f. Lost communications with aircraft, CATs, Brigade PZ Control, subordinate PZ control, AMC, and AATFC.

g. EPW detention/evacuation plan.

h. Hook-up team or boarding troop injuries.

i. Emergency laager plan(s) due to weather or mission aborts.

j. Brownout/whiteout conditions.

k. Fog setting in.

l. Major change in wind direction.

5. Hook-up teams.

a. Composition: Under most conditions use a guide to provide hand/arm signals to the pilots. The pilots rely on the combination of visual guidance from the guide and the oral guidance of the crew chief while conducting the hook-up. Large open grassy PZs require reference points for NVG flight operations (i.e. IR chemlights or markers for assisting crews in aircraft control). Place one soldier with an appropriate colored chemlight (not blue) in the same place, as he provides the pilots with a valuable reference point for height above the ground during goggle operations. Hook-up teams consist of one hook-up man per apex and one static probe man. Add an additional hook-up man for CH-47 loads.

b. Hook-up team member training. Initial certification of Hook-up soldiers and riggers:

(1) Air assault school.

(2) "Hooker Week".

(3) Other "Hooker Week" type training where loads are actually lifted after rigging and inspection. To be certified as a Hook-up soldier, training must involve work under turning rotors.

c. Initial certification of inspectors can be accomplished by participation in any of the following:

(1) Sling master course.

(2) "Hooker Week" as an inspector.

(3) Other "Hooker Week" type training where loads are actually lifted after rigging and inspection.

d. Currency (Hook-up soldiers, riggers, and inspectors). Once certified, soldiers must participate in PZ operations at least every 90 days to maintain currency. If 90 days elapses between participation in PZ operations, soldiers will go through refresher training (see paragraph e below). PZ control officers, rigging teams, hook-up teams and crisis action teams must be trained and kept current and proficient. Supported unit commanders are responsible for maintaining records to track those personnel who are initially and refresher trained, and those who participate in mission-support PZs.

e. Refresher training:

(1) Those soldiers identified as requiring refresher training can participate in "Hooker Week" or some other "Hooker Week" type rigging or hook-up training to regain proficiency in the perishable skills of staging, rigging, inspecting loads on the PZ, and day and night hook-ups before participating in mission support PZ operations.

(2) The supporting aviation unit will provide the aircraft and crew as well as an LNO to assist the PZ control officer. Aircrews will track every hook-up iteration to provide feedback to the supported unit hosting the "Hooker Training".

(3) The PZ should be set up to standard with all the appropriate radio nets and personnel. The supported ground unit is responsible to schedule this training, rig and inspect equipment, and provide hook-up teams.

(4) Only those soldiers current IAW above training and currency requirements will be used to rig, hook-up and inspect loads during mission execution. Night hook-ups are one of the most dangerous tasks we ask soldiers and aircrews to perform. Good training can reduce the risk associated with these tasks.

f. Hook-up team members need the following equipment:

(1) Kevlar helmet.

(2) Goggles (w/clear lens).

(3) Static probe (1 per hookup team) (if no reach pendant used).

(4) Gloves.

(5) Swinging chemlight (1 per hookup team). Do not use blue chemlights.

(6) Add appropriate cold/wet weather gear as the season dictates.


1. Staging plan.

a. PZ layout.

(1) Unless area is secure, always stage soldiers in cover.

(2) Collocate PZ control and aid station.

(3) Require chalk leaders to report early for chalk leader orientation.

(4) Keep pure soldier and vehicle/crew loads separate.

(5) Mark each aircraft touchdown point with a cone covered flashlight, or chemlight, staked to the ground and cleared of high grass prior to aircraft’s initial approach into the PZ.

(6) On the aircraft’s initial approach into the PZ, use swinging chemlights only to mark chalk one’s (in each serial) touchdown point (i.e. 3x serials equals 3x swinging chemlights).

(7) PZ control must be positioned where it can overwatch the entire PZ. Consider positioning an Avenger at PZ control, so the PZ OIC can monitor the PZ actively using the remote FLIR monitor.

(8) Figure 4-5 is an example of the proper distances needed to set up a Light PZ. All distances are minimums. (Dashed lines represent the alternate method).

Figure 4-5, Light PZ Set Up

b. PZ control.

(1) Mark appropriately for easy identification.

(2) Ensure redundant communications to CATs and guides.

(3) Receive inbound reports from aircraft and notify guides accordingly.

(4) Maintain spare goggles, static probes, gloves, and chemlights of all colors.

(5) Keep AATFC and AMC notified of PZ status using the Air Assault Execution Checklist.

(6) Maintain communications with all inbound and PZ-active aircraft.

(7) Understand and execute the bump plan.

(8) Warn inbound aircraft of bump plan, if in effect. Remind them to look for swinging chemlights.

(9) The mission continues until the PZ is clean or until otherwise directed.

c. Staging troops.

(1) Keep troops in the woodline as long as possible.

(2) Soldiers who will be pax in an aircraft that is carrying a slingload will board the aircraft from the side facing the load, not the opposite side. In the event that the aircraft has to make an emergency landing, it will land away from the load, avoiding troops. The troops will position themselves to the opposite side of the load that the aircraft went down on, to shield them from possible fire.

(3) Ensure chalks are provided a PZ orientation upon entry into the PZ.

(4) Stage successive chalks behind each other (see diagram above).

(5) Exercise caution with deep PZ (landing spots for more than one 5xUH-60 serial). Aircraft won’t always land at designated touchdown points. Chalks may have to rapidly relocate.

(6) Guides should physically notify chalks when aircraft are inbound, ensure all soldiers alert.

d. Staging vehicles.

(1) Whenever possible, stage, rig, and inspect loads in daylight.

(2) Weigh vehicles with pax at the entry point to ensure loads are not too heavy.

(3) The max planning weight for a HMMWV under a UH60L is 8000-8500 lbs (weight on the hook) plus troops up to a total of 9000 lbs.

(4) Always allow 60 meters between UH-60 loads.

(5) Ensure vehicles are not stuck in mud prior to hook-up.

(6) Position on flat terrain flat.

2. Loading plan.

a. Crisis action teams function as described above.

b. Bump plan. When a load is frustrated the serial commander will contact PZ control and tell them the lift/serial/chalk number of the frustrated load along with the reason for the problem, if they know it, i.e. too heavy, sling legs intertwined, etc. PZ control will refer to the PZ OIC for instructions as to the aircraft’s actions, i.e. stand by while hooker team re-rigs the load, takeoff without the load. Once the serial is ready, serial commander contacts PZ control for departure clearance. The bump plan must be rehearsed between the OIC and his chain of action. Always bump top to bottom, left to right. The only time this rule does not apply is if the next serial inbound is destined for an LZ that won’t support a bumped load. If such is the case, the bumped load waits until a serial destined for the appropriate LZ arrives. Serials will not be split with out AMC approval.

c. Sending each battalion to a single LZ makes execution of the bump plan easier. It gets hard if the AATFC activates the alternate LZ due to a hot primary LZ.

NOTE: Only the AATFC has the authority to order activation of the alternate LZ. Flight leads/serial commanders do not have the authority to make this decision; they must request permission to go to the alternate LZ through the AMC.


1. Staging plan.

a. PZ layout.

    1. 120 meters between any model aircraft (day, night or NVG) in each serial.

(a) 150 meters when brown out conditions exist (brown out is any condition existing in which dust or debris picked up by the aircraft rotor system will cause a reduction in visibility and the aviator’s ability to acquire visible references).

(2) Stage soldiers with their loads.

(3) Once a vehicle enters the PZ and is rigged and inspected, it stays.

(4) Mark each aircraft touchdown point with a cone covered flashlight, staked to the ground, and cleared of high grass prior to aircraft’s initial approach into the PZ.

(5) On the aircraft’s initial approach into the PZ, Use swinging chemlights only to mark chalk one’s (in each serial) touchdown point (i.e. 3x serials equals 3x swinging chemlights).

b. Figure 4-6 is an example of the proper distances needed to set up a heavy PZ. All distances are minimums. (Dashed lines represent the alternate method).











Figure 4-6, Heavy PZ Set Up (day/night or NVG)

c. PZ Control: as with light PZ.

d. Staging troops: as with the light PZ.

e. Staging vehicles: as with the light PZ. Remember, 17,000 lbs is the maximum planning weight for one CH-47 load.

2. Loading plan: This proceeds just like the light PZ.