LAS VEGAS — On June 16, 82nd Sustainment Brigade Soldiers and Airmen with the 820th Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers (Red Horse) participated in a joint Army/Air Force operation involving the Joint Precision Airdrop System at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas.
In addition to the JPADS, paratroopers also conducted a high altitude-low opening jump. HALO jumps, which normally consist of Soldiers jumping from heights in excess of 10,000 feet, are now being used in tandem with the JPADS as part of the operation. The concept is to have the JPADS drop, followed shortly by the HALO jumpers and through the GPS, both land at a specific location.
The 820th Red Horse planned the JPADS drop to show the operational capability of the delivery system. It provided an opportunity for the Army and Air Force to work together and to build inter-operability between the two services.
“This kind of operation definitely gets us working together; it’s a unique experience,” said Air Force Capt. Russell G. Neice, C-130J aircraft commander, of the 317th Airlift Wing and Cheyenne, Wyo., native. “We get on one page and become accustomed to each other’s standard operating procedures,” he said.
“We need to continue these kinds of relationships with the Army,” said Air Force Col. Darren R. Daniels, commander of the 820th Red Horse. “When we can work together with other forces for mutual gain, then there’s no reason not to.”
The 82nd Sustainment Brigade riggers provided support by rigging the equipment used in the drop.
“Right now this unit relies on the 647th and 11th Quartermaster Companies to provide heavy rigging support for our heavy equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. Mitchell Romag, an airborne maintenance and equipment operator with the 820th Red Horse and Longview, Wash., native. “Without the support we receive from those two companies, we wouldn’t be able to complete our missions nearly as effectively as we can with that support,” he said.
“The riggers from the 82nd Sustainment Brigade are our lifeline,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffery Madden, engineering specialist with the 820th Red Horse and Sinking Springs, Pa., native. “With the work we’ve done with them and the work we will continue to do with them, we’re laying the groundwork for something great here,” he said.
“Working with the Army helps us immensely,” said Romag. “We rely greatly on these riggers. We’re looking forward to continued support from the quartermaster companies out at Fort Bragg.”
Usually, unit air operations are conducted at Fort Bragg. However, due to the restrictions on the drop ceiling and surrounding residential neighborhoods, the operation was held at Nellis Air Force Base. With fewer restrictions at Nellis than at Bragg, the 820th Red Horse was able to operate the aircraft at a higher altitude and drop the JPADS in terrain similar to deployed environments.
According to an article published by Defense News on June 12, JPADS are GPS-steerable parachutes loaded with an onboard computer capable of steering loads to a drop point with considerable accuracy. The system can hit within 150 meters of a target 90 percent of the time, typically dropping payloads of food, water and medical supplies. With the ability to deliver bundles accurately from as high as 25,000 feet, JPADS can take aircraft out of harm’s way.
This unique combination of a GPS-steered parachute system, coupled with the Army and Air Force working together, means that both forces can fine tune their operations.
“The Air Force has subject matter experts who go beyond what we have here in the Army,” said Col. Christopher Sharpsten, 82nd Sustainment Brigade commander. “Their engineers bring a different perspective on our operations, so having them involved only makes the operation more beneficial,” he said.
“I think the operation today went really smooth, it was definitely successful,” said Madden. “What’s really significant is that we were able to have such great coordination between these two units from across the country. We were able to execute this operation with the Army as an added bonus,” he said.
“The Air Force plays a significant role in nearly all of our airborne operations,” said Sharpsten. “This joint operation is an attempt to reach out to the bigger Air Force. If we’re going to do that, then it is critical that we work together with the Air Force.”