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C-130 aircrews, Army riggers reach airdrop record

by Capt. Toni Tones
455 Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/17/2008 - BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- February marked an airdrop record for the C-130 Hercules of the 774th Air Expeditionary Squadron, but not without the support of the Army's 11th Quartermaster Rigger Detachment and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force riggers here.

The joint team delivered approximately 1 million pounds of humanitarian aid to villages and supplies to forward deployed forces in Afghanistan. This was a 40 percent increase from January operations and breaks the previous record from September 2007.

"This winter has been very harsh and cold, bad weather and impassable roads were the primary reasons for the increase (of air drop operations)," said Lt. Col. Scott Morris, the former 774th EAS director of operations. "We had to deliver the cargo to the villagers and the troops, airdrop was the best means to get it there."

"Rotary wing aircraft can also be used to deliver supplies, just not as much and it's not as safe as the higher flying cargo aircraft," said Army Chief Warrant Officer Joe DeCosta, an airdrop system technician and the detachment commander.

The container delivery system is used by the Army for building and rigging bundles using parachutes, plywood skid boards and energy dissipating materials, or honeycomb. The bundles can range from 500 to 2,200 pounds.

The 21-person detachment is set up to rig 50 CDS' with over 100,000 pounds of supplies a day for a 12-day sustainment period, but could probably double that if needed, Chief DeCosta said. For February, the detachment created more than 480 CDS bundles totaling 650,000 pounds for coalition forces throughout Afghanistan.

Nearly 35 percent of the record cargo delivered in February was humanitarian assistance to Afghan villagers' hard-hit by the extreme weather. The bundles consist of essentials to include blankets, rice, beans, coal, oil and stoves. More than 300 people died from the severe conditions, according to Afghan government reports.

The other 600,000-plus pounds were supplies to coalition troops at forward deployed locations who are defeating insurgents and bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan.

"We keep approximately 150 contingency bundles ready at all times to support any type of emergency or humanitarian mission that could arise," Chief DeCosta said. "We maintain all classes of supplies, to include meals ready to eat, water, fuel; the list goes on. However, the riggers try to drop anything the units request. We've created bundles of Gatorade, ice cream, fruits, vegetables and even some of the frozen food served in the dining facilities."

A rigger quality checks the bundles then stages them the night prior for transport to the aircraft. Once it's loaded onto the aircraft, the loadmaster and joint airdrop inspector inspect the load with a different rigger to ensure everything is secure and ready to drop.

"The only way for this to work is when the Army and Air Force work together," said Master Sgt. Mike Pierson, the 774th EAS joint airdrop inspector from the Delaware Air National Guard 142nd Airlift Squadron. "Operating here in a combat environment is where it all pays off."

The C-130s of the 774th EAS continue to fulfill their role of intra-theater troop and supply movement,with the help of the riggers from the 11th Quartermaster.

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