News: Deployed airdrops continue record pace through first quarter of 2011
Story by Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - At the end of 2010, deployed mobility Airmen supporting airdrop operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility airdropped a record 60.4 million pounds of cargo to austere locations in Afghanistan. But, by the end of 2011, that record might change.
The 2010 airdrop record, which was nearly twice the amount of 2009's then-record 32.7 million pounds dropped, may be in jeopardy of being "old news" if the 2011 pace of airdrops in the USCENTCOM area of responsibility continues on its present pace.
From January through March 2011, mobility airmen and others who support the deployed airdrop mission have airdropped more than 18.6 million pounds of cargo, Air Forces Central statistics show. If this same amount of cargo is airdropped for each of the rest of the three quarters of 2011, the record mark of "pounds airdropped" could reach as high as 74 million-plus pounds.
As part of that record pace, airmen with the 772nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, also improved a record within their squadron in March, according to a report from 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs. From March 1-31, 772nd EAS airmen completed "72 airdrops of more than 1.5 million pounds in almost 1,100 bundles."
In that same report, 1st Lt. Roger Knobeloch commented on his participation in the 772nd EAS record effort and possibly reflected on the sentiment of all Airmen supporting airdrops.
"It's rewarding to get up every day and be part of a team supplying the troops outside the wire," said Lieutenant Knobeloch, who is a C-130 Hercules co-pilot deployed to Kandahar from Air Mobility Command's 41st Airlift Squadron, 19th Airlift Wing, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. "It's pretty cool breaking records as well."
The 772nd EAS at Kandahar is just one of the units supporting the deployed airdrop effort using variants of the C-130 Hercules to complete missions. Also supporting the airdrop effort are C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from several expeditionary airlift squadrons as well as other C-130 units. Both airframes are crucial to making record efforts like this take place, officials said.
Master Sgt. John Gorsuch, a member of Headquarters AMC's Air Operations Squadron Detachment 5 at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base in St. Joseph, Mo., and a career 16-year C-130 loadmaster, serves as an instructor in the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center. He said the C-130 is "clearly doing what it has always done."
"The C-130 supports both direct engagement with the enemy and provides [troops on the ground] with timely sustainment on a scale unmatched anywhere in the world," Gorsuch said.
Capt. Ryan Fandell, a C-17 pilot from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia, said in an AFCENT Public Affairs report that airdrops are often the best way to supply the tens of thousands of coalition troops operating in Afghanistan.
"Due to the type of war we find ourselves in, the environment and remoteness of the [combat outposts], it's difficult to get supplies to [them] using conventional methods," said Fandell, who is deployed from AMC's 7th Airlift Squadron, 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. "The only way to get supplies into these areas is via air. The roads, if any, are unsafe. It's important to keep our guys out of harm's way as much as possible and that means keeping them off the roads."
Air Forces Central has statistics showing the amount of cargo airdropped since 2006, which was 3.5 million pounds. Through the first quarter of 2011, mobility airmen are averaging more than 6.2 million pounds a month for airdrops - nearly double the 2006 effort every month. But no matter the level, those recipients of the airdropped carge, who include U.S. Army soldiers working and operating from forward operating bases, are grateful to receive the support.
"Life at my combat outpost would be unimaginable without food, water, medicine and ammunition," said Army Sgt. Brandon McCannon, 10th Cavalry Regiment scout deployed to Afghanistan, in an Air Force News story. "The only access we have to any supplies here are the ones that the Air Force drops in."
(Capt. Penny Carroll, 451st AEW Public Affairs, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace, Regional Command-West Public Affairs, Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary, AFCENT Combat Camera correspondent, and AFCENT Public Affairs contributed to this report.)