Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment conducted “heavy drop” operations on Sicily Drop Zone to enhance artillery proficiency, Jan. 20. Heavy drop operations start days in advance when paratroopers begin rigging the platforms with equipment used on the drop zone. For this heavy drop, the equipment was an M777A2 and an M119A3. Once the equipment is rigged and inspected, it is ready for the operation.

Paratroopers will conduct sustained airborne training in advance of the operation, showing up on the morning of the operation with equipment in hand. They are bussed to Green Ramp for briefing and reception of parachutes. After donning parachutes and passing an inspection by a jumpmaster to ensure the parachute and equipment is serviceable and properly put together, the paratrooper is ready to jump.

A “push, pull detail” and Air Force load masters load the rigged platforms on the aircraft. Once loaded and locked in place and paratroopers have all been inspected, the paratroopers board the aircraft. On first pass, load masters release the heavy drop, allowing it to float to earth. On second pass, it's the paratroopers turn — upon landing, paratroopers bag their chutes and run to the platform and start de-rigging and in-placing the howitzer.

Once the howitzer is in-placed, Airborne artillerymen shoot fire missions off the drop zone.

According to Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Luedtke, Gun Devils command sergeant major, the training “provides us an opportunity to jump, assemble, de-rig and put into operation our fire support systems. The most important benefit is that our fire supporters, fire direction controllers and cannoneers are able to execute all their task to provide the best fire support to the maneuver commanders.”