AFGHANISTAN - Work starts at 1 a.m. for a group of soldiers with the 647th Quartermaster Detachment. As one of the soldiers, Spc. Manuel A. Perez, a parachute rigger with the 647th Quartermaster Detachment inspects a cargo load, the pitch black morning sky causes him to use a mini flashlight as he climbs on top of the five foot stack.
Sifting and shivering, Perez continues to inspect and tie knots on the load trying to ensure that it will pass flight inspection. If the load is rejected, the fuel will not reach the soldiers out in the field and these days fuel is more precious to them than gold.
After an hour of making sure the loads are ready for inspection, Perez rubs his hands together and yells, “Alright, let’s move out,” signaling the riggers to move the cargo to the flight line.
“Other than working long hours I would say getting last minute missions are a big challenge, but hey it is what it is,” Perez said. “Passing inspection is really important because you don’t want the load to burn in.”
When cargo that is air dropped crashes to a landing site, it is considered a burn in, which could result in wasted supplies and government dollars.
Warrant Officer Roger Bradford, an airdrop systems technician with the 647th Quartermaster Detachment, said some of the things important to the riggers before getting the cargo ready are the weight and quantity of the commodities a unit in the field requests.
“We have to calculate how many bundles it will take to rig the commodities and depending on how many bundles we calculate we may require multiple aircraft,” Bradford said.
In order to make sure the detachment books the right amount of aircraft and cargo doesn’t burn in, the riggers work with the 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron to make sure each bundle gets to the drop zone securely.
As the two services work together to get cargo from the skies to the field, the riggers know that air drop missions are crucial to the soldiers in the field.
“Some of the smaller outstations that we support can only be supplied by air drop,” Bradford said. “Not only does utilization of air drop give us the ability to ensure the war fighter receives the commodities they need, it also reduces the requirement for items to be convoyed.”
The work loads may vary and the hours may be long, but sometimes the riggers get to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
“Sometimes we get to go out in a Chinook helicopter on an air drop mission to push out our own loads so that’s always cool to do,” Perez said.
Whether the cargo is dropped out of a hovering Chinook or out of a C-130 aircraft flying thousands of feet in the air, the riggers don’t care how the cargo gets there; it just has to get there in one piece.