By Senior Airman Melissa B. White
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – A total force integrated C-130J Hercules unit broke their squadron’s monthly airdrop record Jan. 28 and then went on to shatter that record by the month’s end at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
The 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, which has been in place at the airfield since March 2009, had a previous record of 40 airdrop missions in a one-month period that the squadron soared past in January by completing 51 airdrop missions.
“It feels good to be setting records, but what you’ll find with most of the guys here is that it doesn’t matter if you break a record, it matters that you complete the mission and get the supplies where they need to go so we can help those guys on the ground,” said Lt. Col. Walt Ord, 772nd EAS aircraft commander who was the leader of the crew that completed the 41st airdrop.
The record-breaking airdrop consisted of 20 bundles of water, meals ready-to-eat and fuel being dropped to support forward operating bases in the heart of Afghanistan.
“It feels good knowing we’re supplying the troops on the ground and allowing them to perform their missions more effectively with these much-needed supplies,” said Tech. Sgt. David Pirie, 772nd EAS loadmaster. “It’s also great knowing we’re contributing to the warfighting effort.”
Airdrop missions take about 4 to 5 hours apiece of advanced planning by the tactics team to ensure no conflictions with other missions in execution. Then once the cargo is bundled and ready for flight, the loadmasters load the bundles, joint airdrop inspectors ensure the load is rigged properly, and the aircraft is ready for airdrop. The crew then flies to one of many drop zones where the back of the aircraft is opened up for the bundles to be released at a different altitude depending on location. The bundles are then released and float down to earth with assistance from attached parachutes. This month, the bundles were 99 percent recoverable and undamaged - exceeding the Army’s planned expectations of estimating for only 90 percent of the bundles to be usable.
In addition to successfully completing 51 airdrops weighing more than 1.1 million pounds, the 772nd EAS also moved close to 4,000 passengers and flew more than 420 sorties with approximately 400 flight hours during the month of January.
The 772nd EAS is currently comprised of members from the 41st Airlift Squadron from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., and two squadrons that fall under the 403rd Airlift Wing out of Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. The 345th Airlift Squadron active-duty component and the 815th Airlift Squadron comprised of Reservists, make up the Air Force’s first C-130J total force integrated unit, which joined together in August 2010. The active associate units share aircraft while working together to both fly and maintain the C-130s, an initiative that leverages the combined resources of the Reserves and active-duty force.
“Everyone is the same and we all come together in a seamless operation to keep the guys outside the wire safer,” said Lt. Col. Craig Williams, 772nd EAS commander. “Where we can fly in one hour could be a three-day trip through the mountains that subject those drivers to indirect fire, improvised explosive devices and other hazards ... we’re literally saving lives every day.”