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421st Riggers: Supporting the fight from afar

October 10, 2012

By Staff Sgt. Peter Berardi

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar -- Around noon while most units are taking a break from the day's work, Army riggers with the 421st Quartermaster Company are still hard at work in the 105-degree sweltering humidity at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

In and around a dust, dimly lit clamshell tent more than 20 soldiers are working on several different tasks with many different pieces of equipment. Inside of the tent, a group of soldiers is tying off webbing and inspecting bundles while another group is cleaning up excess material. Outside, under the blazing sun, a group of soldiers is organizing bundles of parachutes while others are driving around on forklifts moving completed bundles into and out of the tent. The scene looks very chaotic but is surprisingly organized.

"The soldiers are constantly working," said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Davis, a resident of Water Rapids, Ga., and the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 421st Rigger Detachment. "The soldiers work long hours but they enjoy it. They don't fuss. We are down here to do one thing, put stuff down range, and we are not going to miss any mission at all."

Over the last 11 months, riggers with the 421st, an Army Reserve unit from Fort Valley, Ga., currently assigned under the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), have helped move more than 10 million pounds of supplies during more than 380 aerial delivery missions. The supplies have been air dropped to Afghanistan and other countries in the Central Command area of responsibility in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"The mission the riggers do is vital," said Capt. Phil Gryskewicz, a resident of Franklin, Pa., and the 316th support operations section field services officer in charge. "The thing about aerial delivery is you can extend your footprint on the battlefield and Afghanistan is a perfect example of that."

With it being landlocked, spread out and having mountains and other very rough terrain it's hard to have forces as far away from main bases as the enemy operates, explained, Gryskewicz who helps the riggers with logistical support they may need while reporting missions and status updates to higher. "Aerial delivery allows us to take the fight closer to the enemy and the riggers are a very important part of that."

Since arriving at Al Udeid Air Base more than 11 months ago, the riggers of the 421st have moved everything from food, laundry detergent and hand sanitizer to fuel, construction materials and other vital items soldiers down range need.

The drops have mainly been to forward operating bases in Afghanistan. More than 20 forward operating bases, including an emergency resupply to a United Kingdom forward operating base, have received bundles prepared by the 421st, said Davis.

The amount of work done by the riggers of the 421st has been very important.

"They have most definitely done a great job with their mission," said Gryskewicz. "As of recently they have been delivering a larger amount of supplies than the riggers at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan and Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan."

To accomplish this seemingly overwhelming task, the riggers have worked 60 days straight for 10 to 12 hour days in heat up to 130 degrees, rain and sandstorms, said Davis.

"They haven't missed a mission yet and have yet to complain about the workload," he added.

During the workday, the riggers take care of everything to prepare bundles for aerial delivery. The soldiers build the bundles, tie off all of the webbing and straps, inspect them, load them onto trucks, transport them to the airfield, load them into the aircraft and hook them up and insect them one final time, explained Davis.

Wanting to show the riggers how important their mission really is, each soldier was given the opportunity to fly with a delivery to its drop point, said Davis. Every one of the soldiers seemed appreciative of the chance to see where the deliveries went.

"They got to see the process form start to finish, now they have a broader picture of what they do. They realize that the stuff we are doing really affects people," he said.

"The stuff we are doing may seem simple to us, but we play a big role in people being enablers and disablers down range," said Davis. "That's the biggest message I wanted to get through to my soldiers."

Nearing the end of their tour, riggers with the 421st still place the mission first.

"We've still got a mission and I've got 23 other guys to worry about," said Davis. "We left with 24 and are gonna get home with 24."

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