BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – For each bundle they pack and prepare for aerial delivery, they know there are special operations forces on the ground whose lives depend on the contents.
In May 2012, parachute riggers assigned to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan set a monthly aerial resupply record for rigging the most bundles for any unit deployed to Afghanistan.
“The timing with mission requirements, movements and spring fighting season significantly increased the resupply requests,” said Capt. Cristina Dardon, air drop officer-in-charge for CJSOTF-A. “We have SOF in such remote areas, if they do not receive food, fuel or ammunition, they can’t live, move or defend.”
Dardon said with the rugged mountainous terrain, delivery of such critical items can only be conducted through parachute delivery.
“We won’t say ‘no’ to these operators,” said Dardon. “Our rigger teams worked tirelessly to support them and we are very proud of this achievement.”
The unit rigged 2,445,595 pounds of resupply items utilizing the container delivery system and low-cost low-altitude bundles. The previous record was 2,156,353 pounds, set by a conventional rigger unit in 2011. The former CJSOTF-A monthly record was 1,937,770 pounds.
“What made setting this record even more rewarding was we did this with half the people the conventional unit had when they set their record,” said Chief Warrant Officer Kent Dawson, the air drop officer at CJSOTF-A.
The unit, comprised of 15 riggers, prepared between 60-100 bundles a day, with the average bundle weighing between 200-600 pounds.
“We had 132 airdrops and rigged 1,686 bundles,” said Dawson. “We had one day-off from rigging, and on that day we helped load bundles on the aircraft.”
Dawson attributes the high volume of airdrops in May to the requirements to support SOF in the thick of fighting season and their extremely remote locations in rugged terrain. The only way to get mission critical items to many sites is through aerial resupply.
Dardon added the rigging record is even more significant when looking at the flexibility of the riggers and their ability to adjust due to weather, maintenance or troops in contact situations.
“The riggers were at the top of their game,” said Dardon. “They showed with communication, coordination and a positive attitude, they could meet any aerial support requirement.”
“Everyone in the unit appreciates we are supporting operators who are living very differently than we are at Bagram,” said Dawson. “Morale was very high and everyone came together to do whatever was needed to take care of the SOF teams.”
Dawson, who has supported special operations for almost 20 years, said the key factor for the CJSOTF-A riggers to be able to support so effectively is their location at Bagram Air Field.
“We eat, sleep and work right on the airfield,” said Dawson. “If an emergency resupply request comes in, we can have it ready and loaded on an aircraft within two hours.”
Dawson added the unit is extremely proud as they have achieved something no unit in Afghanistan has ever done.
The primary aircraft used to deliver the resupplies is the C-130 or C-17, covering more than 40 drop-zones located in the combined joint operations area.
“In every respect, the rigger team was ready for the ambitious undertaking and challenges to support in the CJOA,” said Col. Antonio Fletcher, commander CJSOTF-A. “This record is just another example of the hard work and dedication of our personnel to tirelessly sustain the operators on the ground.”