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Military

C-130s put troops, supplies on target in Afghanistan

by Senior Master Sgt. Kim Allain
455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


10/4/2007 - BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AFPN)  -- The mission of the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron here is to provide accurate and immediate airdrops of critical supplies to troops on the ground throughout Afghanistan, and these airdrops have a significant impact on the success of ground missions for those fighting the war on terrorism.

Ground missions in Afghanistan take troops deep into mountain terrain or to base locations without airstrips. The delivery of supplies by road transportation can be dangerous, time-consuming or nonexistent.

"Airdrop is either the fastest or only way to resupply troops with food, water, fuel, ammunition and equipment," said Master Sgt. Lance Peck, a loadmaster with the 109th Airlift Wing out of Schenectady, N.Y.

Airdrops have been one of the U.S.'s primary means of moving supplies since the Berlin Airlift in 1948. Whether the mission is for troop drops and resupply to contribute to a wartime effort, or for emergency relief during humanitarian aid, the C-130 Hercules aircraft and crew provide assistance.

"This is a pure C-130 mission here at Bagram -- doing what we have been trained to do and what the aircraft was built for," said Senior Master Sgt. Roy Self, a loadmaster with the 165th Airlift Wing from Louisville, Ky.

The mission is also a joint effort between Soldiers and Airmen. Army logisticians perform a risk evaluation to determine the airdrop requirement. They then coordinate with ground troops to determine a feasible zone, or drop location for air delivery of troops, supplies or equipment.

"It is important to hit the zone with the drop as that may be the only piece of ground those troops own at the moment," Sergeant Self said.

Once airdrop needs are determined, the teamwork and communication between the services really kicks in. The Army ascertains what is needed at each drop location and then builds the loads (equipment), or bundles (supplies), and rigs the parachute attached to each drop.

The Army rigging team then follows the bundles/loads to the aircraft where the aircrew joint airdrop inspector, or JAI, meets with the rigging team to inspect the parachutes attached to each bundle. The parachute rigging must be precise and accurate to ensure that the chute opens once each load or bundle exits the back of the aircraft and must get each drop safely to the ground.

Both the rigging team and aircrew loadmasters work with the JAI to correctly load the drops onto the C-130 and to perform the final rigging inspection. Once it is determined that each drop will properly clear the aircraft upon extraction, the JAI will provide the final certification and clearance is given for aircraft departure.

The biggest challenge is that "every load and mission is different and all sections involved need to understand what the requestor needs and wants you to do to accomplish an accurate drop," said Tech. Sgt. Eric Higen, also a loadmaster from the 165th AW.

Safety concerns determine whether the drop is performed at a high altitude, which is above 10,000 feet, or at low altitude.

"Teamwork and communication get the job done," Sergeant Self said. The navigator confirms the drop location and gives the loadmaster the "green light" to extract the load or bundle from the aircraft.

"There's no better feeling in the world than calling 'Load clear' and knowing you are getting those troops the items and equipment they need to survive and complete their mission," he said.



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