The War on Terrorism has reinforced the importance of the Army’s ability to quickly insert not only troops, but vehicles, supplies and other equipment into combat with little or no notice.
On June 7, XVIII Airborne Corps’ Headquarters Support Company put that practice into play during a heavy equipment drop at Fort Bragg. The airborne operation was part of Joint Operational Access Exercise 12-03, an XVIII Airborne Corps’ quarterly exercise to ensure its paratroopers are ready to conduct a parachute mission on a moment’s notice.
“It’s the first heavy jump since the unit’s been back (from a year-long Iraq deployment),” said Capt. Kelly Polashenski, XVIII Abn. Corps’ Headquarters Support Company commander. She and 15 other paratroopers waited at Pope Field to load a C-130 Hercules, used extensively in airborne operations.
The company air-dropped a specially-rigged humvee along with the paratroopers.
Special care must be taken when rigging heavy equipment for an air drop. Jumpmasters ensure the equipment exits safely and is functional once it hits the ground.
The humvee was taken to the rigging facility where the headlights and mirrors were secured with tape. Chains and ratchet straps were used to secure the vehicle to a pallet. Cardboard waffle padding was added as shock absorbers and parachutes were harnessed in preparation for landing the vehicle onto the drop zone.
Although this particular heavy-drop mission involved just one humvee, paratroopers are capable of jumping with an array of other equipment including life support supplies, artillery, tents, and weapons.
“As a paratrooper or a jumpmaster, staying proficient in all aspects of an airborne operation is fundamental to support our forcible entry capability,” said Maj. Matthew Hash, the drop zone safety officer for the exercise.
As he set markers for the vehicle and jumpers to land on Salerno Drop Zone, Hash reminisced with the rest of his team of times when he was on a two-hour recall while assigned to 82nd Airborne Division for possible conflicts prior to 9/11.
“That’s why the Soldiers of Fort Bragg are known as America’s strategic force,” Hash said. “We need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” he said, referring to the division’s ability to deploy anywhere in the world in 18 hours.
“By making sure we know how to correctly rig a vehicle and safely insert it into a known location, we are doing our part to ensure that we are able to execute whatever mission our nation calls us to do,” explained Hash.