Friday, March 23, 2007

TOP STORY >>Emergency airdrop sustains combat ops in Afghanistan

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNEWS) — When coalition ground forces fighting Taliban extremists in southern Afghanistan needed fuel in a hurry March 12, coalition air power answered the call, filling the 9,000-pound full airdrop order in less than eight hours.
The 1st Battalion of the 508th Parachute Infantry Division was engaged in combat operations to prevent Taliban extremists’ influence in the Ghorak Valley when the Soldiers’ increased fuel consumption rates required emergency resupply.

The ground forces were operating in support of Operation Achilles, a Helmand Province-focused campaign led by the International Security Assistance Force. The campaign aims to improve security conditions and ultimately improve the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s ability to begin reconstruction and economic development.

The Combined Air Operations Center’s Air Mobility Division, located at an air base in the Persian Gulf, received the emergency request at about midnight Monday. In less than eight hours, the division’s tactics section had a C-130 Hercules aircrew launched from the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and flying over the drop zone with 24 55-gallon drums onboard, all parachute-rigged and ready for airdrop.

“The way all the different services work together to sustain the fight is amazing,” said Capt. Nick Whritenour, an Air Mobility Division tactics officer, who led the airdrop coordination effort through the early morning hours March 13.

“The Army made the request and riggers put the much-needed supplies together,” Captain Whritenour said. “Meanwhile we (the Air Mobility Division) worked hand-in-hand with the flying squadron at Bagram to ensure the delivery is safe, efficient and effective.”

The C-130 aircrew performed the airdrop with low-velocity parachutes from less than 5,000 feet above the ground.
“The emergency drop was a demonstration of airpower flexibility,” said Lt. Col. Mike Taheri the 774th EAS commander. “At midnight there was no planned mission but by 10 a.m. we had the fuel on the ground to keep the lights on.”

Under normal circumstances, the aircrews use data from a sonde, an airborne tube that measures wind conditions, to determine the exact point at which the aircraft must release the cargo. Yet because the sonde was not functioning appropriately, the crew requested and received a waiver to use internal data to derive the release point.

The cargo landed within 35 meters of the desired point of impact. “It’s an amazing statement on the creativity and ingenuity of our tactical airlift crews,” Colonel Taheri said. While emergency resupply airdrops are fairly uncommon in Afghanistan — only three have been carried out since December 2006 — airdrops in support of Operation Enduring Freedom are nearly an everyday occurrence.

In January and February alone, the Air Mobility Division here planned and executed 84 airdrops, consisting of some 569 bundles weighing nearly 830,000 pounds, dropped from both C-17 Globemaster IIIs and C-130 aircraft largely in eastern Afghanistan.


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