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C-17 Crews Make Record Airdrop

Two C-17 air crews completed a record airdrop, simultaneously dropping supply loads in Afghanistan.

17 October 2007
By Staff Sgt. Trevor Tiernan
U.S. Central Command Air Force Combat Correspondent Team
.

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Oct. 17, 2007 — Two U.S. Air Force C-17 crews recently completed a mission for the history books with one of the largest single airdrops in Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom began.

“What sets this mission apart from previous ones is this is the first time we’ve used two aircraft to drop simultaneously on the same drop zone in the AOR (area of responsibility),” said Tech. Sgt. Marvin Mosley, a loadmaster on the Oct. 11, 2007, mission.

It also was the first time in combat that cargo has been air-dropped in a formation scenario. The two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron dropped more than 60 bundles of cargo, weighing more than 85,000 pounds, over the Paktika province in southeastern Afghanistan.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Robinson, Air Mobility Division chief, Combined Air and Space Operations Center, said the drop contained supplies needed to operate through the winter, said. Poor road conditions leading to the forward operating base and force protection concerns drove the decision to make an airdrop, Robinson said. “Airdrop[s] could deliver all the supplies in two to three minutes using the C-17s and minimize [coalition forces’] exposure on the ground and in the air,” said Robinson.

The crews flew from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, to pick up the cargo at Bagram Airfield before heading to the drop zone. Air Force Capt. Ryan Orfe, one of the pilots on the mission, said the airdrop not only got the needed supplies to the troops well ahead of harsh winter weather, but also helped keep convoy drivers out of harm’s way.

“Hopefully we’re doing good and taking convoys off the road,” said Orfe. “That seems to be where a lot of the attacks on our troops come from. The more we can keep [the convoys] off the road, while at the same time keeping ourselves safe flying at higher altitudes … it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Photo- A second Air Force C-17 Globemaster drops Combat Delivery System bundles just a few hundred feet above another set floating down to coalition soldiers waiting below, Oct. 11, 2007. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Micah E. Clare.

Source: US CentCom.

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25 July 07
By Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Day
2nd Marine Division (FWD)
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Ramadi, Iraq — The scout-sniper platoon from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, left the ground behind as they took to the skies to hunt for weapon caches and insurgents. As part of the aeroscout mission, the Marines travel by helicopter to areas not normally checked because of their remote locations.

“The average size group for this type of mission is usually two platoons. We’re doing it with about half,” said 1st Lt. Jordan D. Reese, the executive officer for Weapons Company, 3/7. “We train constantly, so that we are comfortable with each other. The Marines know what type of air power they have behind them. We believe there is no objective we can’t handle.”

Marines from the scout-sniper platoon conducted aeroscout operations south of Ramadi, in the desolate lands of the Razazah plains July 22.

The Marines loaded onto the helicopters at 9 a.m. They carried with them a full combat load, and packs of food, blankets and water to pass out to the people they encounter on the mission.

“The food drops are our way to show that we are on their side,” the Rockford Ill. native said. “In the city this might not be a big deal, but this food could mean life or death to these people. There is nothing out there in the far desert. Maybe it will keep them happy enough to have them stay working with us, and not the terrorists.”

During the flight, Reese observed different sites looking for anything suspicious. After flying around for about 15 minutes, he spotted a tent with vehicles around it and people walking around. He decided to insert the team to take a closer look.

The two CH-53 Sea Stallions landed and the two scout-sniper teams moved fast out the door of the helicopter and began to provide security for the landing zone.

“With a unit this small conducting the operation, it is real easy to maneuver,” Reese said. “We can get in, hit the objective, and get out in about 20 minutes.”

Once the helicopters lifted the scouts went to work, moving fast, but cautiously toward the tent. Between the two teams, one team held security while the other team searched the people and the structure.

After a quick, but thorough search the Marines decided there weren’t any suspicious items or information, so they called in the helicopters for extraction.

“These missions give us a presence in an area which hasn’t had any coalition forces in it for years or even ever,” Reese said.

“This will keep the bad guys on their toes and that is really what we’re going for. Keep them guessing so we can catch up to them and get them.”

Though the Marines had finished with the objective, they were not done. While observing a different area, Reese noticed some additional suspicious activities. They went back to work.

“The Marines showed the ethos of being a professional warrior today,” said Capt. Miguel A. Pena, a forward air controller for the battalion. “They showed the people we’re here to provide help to them.”

As the Marines sprinted toward their second objective, men came out with their hands up as the Marines approached their vehicles.

“We are able to reach far into the desert winds and help some people who we had no contact with before,” Pena said. “We are conducting these missions in a nonstandard way. Before they were ground driven, now we bring the air element to the fight.”

The Marines questioned the men through the interpreter. They asked them about where they were from, why they were there, and if anything suspicious happened recently. The Marines gave the group of men the one of their packs of food for co-operating with them.

The Marines then set up landing zone security again, while Pena called for the birds to come pick them up.

“These missions provide us with the opportunity to hit the enemy before they hit us,” Reese said. “We will continue to do it because of all the positive effects it has on the people and on our mission here in Ramadi.”

Photo – Lance Cpl. Adam A. Ramirez, squad automatic weapon gunner for the scout snipers, runs off the CH-53 Sea Stallion toward the objective. The Marines only have a short time on the ground so they move fast to ensure they can get everything they need done at each site.

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24 July 07
by Capt. Teresa Sullivan
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
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SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) – Airmen of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing dropped 120,000 leaflets over the Helmand Province in Afghanistan July 22 to help prevent civilian casualties while prepping the battlefield for future operations.

The nine-member crew of the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, all based out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, successfully accomplished a short-notice mission to release leaflets over four southwestern Afghanistan drop zones in a dangerous Taliban hot spot, despite challenging winds and dust storms.

The leaflets were designed to deliver a message to the people of the province to take refuge in their homes and also discourage them from harboring Taliban members. In the meantime, coalition forces continue efforts to eliminate the insurgent’s stronghold while avoiding loss of innocent lives.

The mission began several days prior to C-130 Hercules’ takeoff when the squadron was alerted and planners began developing their strategy. Their computer-based plan considered route, location, wind forecasts and leaflet size in its calculations. High winds and dust storms throughout the area made planning a challenge.

Prior to the mission, the aircrew gathered to discuss the game plan.

“It’s going to be a long night, but you are all prepared,” said Lt. Col. Joe Sexton, the 746th EAS commander to the C-130 crew after the mission brief. “It’s no coincidence that you all are on this (mission). I have full confidence in all of you. You guys are going to go out there and do it right.”

Ready to put their plan to the test, they set off for the airdrop.

“We were originally scheduled to do a different mission, but we were alerted to come into work because we were going to be doing a ‘special’ mission,” said Capt. Brett Cochran, a C-130 pilot and native of Pflugerville, Texas. The captain was responsible for flying the aircraft over four drop zones. “This is the first mission of this kind for our squadron during this deployment so far, so it’s important we get things started on a good note.”

A lot was on the minds of crew members who were new to the combat zone airdrop business. “What-if” discussions included the dust storms, fuel, shifting winds, contingency plans and defensive tactics on the way to Kandahar International Airport to pick up the leaflets.

The Air Force uses leaflets to deter enemy forces or reduce their will to fight. In this case they were being used to encourage innocent bystanders to stay out of harm’s way. While the leaflet-drop mission may be new to some of the pilots of this expeditionary squadron, it’s a mission that’s tied closely to the 379th AEW’s heritage.

In the summer of 1944, leaflets were dropped over Germany by the 379th’s ancestor, the 379th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force, intended to shape the adversary’s psyche, and to destroy their ability to wage war.

Then 379th BG’s leaflets were designed to spread the word on allied progress during World War II. Some provided words of encouragement to the people of enemy-occupied countries while others focused on relentless bombings of Nazi airfields, oil refineries and cities undermining the enemy’s will to resist.

Knowing the wing’s forefathers carried out similar missions 63 years ago reminded the aircrew that they’re part of a long tradition of airpower.

“It’s neat that we can continue on with the legacy,” said 1st Lt. Mike Heddinger, a 746th EAS co-pilot from Wichita Falls, Texas. “It’s also great that we’ll be helping the guys on the ground by prepping the battlefield.”

As the crew departed Kandahar for the Helmand Province, pilots reviewed their play book once more while loadmasters rehearsed the drop in their minds preparing the harnesses, oxygen tanks and boxes of leaflets.

“What we’re going to do is line these boxes up as advertised and push them out the door at the right time,” said Master Sgt. Larry Lambert, a 746th EAS senior loadmaster from Asbury, N.J.

The loadmasters in the back of the C-130 were responsible for the drop portion of the mission, communicating closely with the crew in the cockpit.

“We’ve been around the block a few times, so I can put my faith in the guys up front (of the C-130),” he said. “These leaflets can save innocent lives, so we’re fired up to be a part of this.”

As the aircraft approached the drop zone Sergeant Lambert established contact with his two loadmaster teammates using designated hand signals, letting them know when they were 20, 10, four, three, two and one minute away.

The crew was 5,000 feet above the target and everyone was fully prepared in safety gear. Within the hour the mission was complete. The crew went four for four over the Helmand Province, dropping the leaflets on time and on target. Within minutes it would be raining leaflets over the Helmand Province.

“It was a good day. We accomplished what we were asked to do,” said Captain Cochran. “We completed the mission at hand and it’s a great feeling.”

This is what it’s all about, said Maj. Pat O’Sullivan, the 746th EAS director of operations, from Sebring, Fla.

“We love this stuff. Missions like this drop with little to no notice,” he said. “As soon as we received the word, they started moving, planning for and coordinating every possible scenario and variable. They were ready for every situation, guaranteeing a successful mission.”

Photo – Tech. Sgt. Matt Rossi drops 30,000 leaflets July 22 over a drop zone in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan. The squadron successfully met their objective of dropping 120,000 leaflets over the Helmand Province, prepping the battlefield. Sergeant Rossi is a 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron instructor loadmaster. Photo by Capt. Teresa Sullivan.

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