War on Terrorism

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kuwait: Kentucky Army National Guard Soldiers train to recover air resupply drops

By Army 1st Lt. Gregory Slater & Spc. Matthew Magreta
1204th Aviation Support Battalion

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait (6/14/12) – At times, using convoys to resupply troops in the field isn’t feasible. But, those troops are able to continue to operate, however, thanks to the abilities of Army and Air Force airdrops. Food, clothing, barrels of fuel, construction materials and ammunition have all found their way to those in the field because of this aerial support.

Soldiers with the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 1204th Aviation Support Battalion recently received training to contribute to those efforts.

Soldiers from 1204th ASB participated in Joint Precision Air Drop System recovery training. The Soldiers received hands-on training in preparing the system for an air drop mission and recovering of sensitive equipment. These Soldiers were then tasked to train other Soldiers from 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment that would augment the unit’s recovery team.

Those Soldiers then took part in a multi-unit training exercise testing JPAS operations. The event took place recently on the north side of Camp Buehring and consisted of approximately 60 troops from the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Sqdrn., 7th Cav. and the Air Force.

Although JPADS are commonly used in Afghanistan, this was the first time that Kuwait-based units had coordinated as a combined arms team to demonstrate their ability to resupply ground combat units.

"Mission success was contingent upon the positive relationships between U.S. units and our Kuwaiti partners to ensure that airspace was available and clear during the operation," said Army Lt. Col. Todd Coulson, deputy chief of staff for operations, Task Force 3.1.

The operation was previously delayed due to administrative issues, but last month the exercise was conducted flawlessly with JPADS performing as it was designed.

Air Force personnel dropped four bundles totaling 5,000 pounds from a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Flying in at almost 10,000 feet, two pilots and a full crew guided the drops using a Global Positioning System, meteorology data kit and a mission planner laptop. Each bundle varied in size and weight, but each one resembled a giant cube with netting holding the cargo in place.

The bundles consisted of food, water and other supplies, “which would simulate a realistic resupply drop to ground combat personnel located anywhere," said Coulson.

Soldiers from the 1204th ASB and 1st Sqdrn., 7th Cav. were responsible for transportation, security, recovery and safety of the bundles as they immediately touched down in the 360-degree perimeter.

"Before the drop, we do a reconnaissance and a visual sweep of the drop zone to ensure the area is clear of debris, camels and Bedouin camps," said Army Capt. Michael Kiser, with Troop A, 1st Sqdrn., 7th Cav.

According to Staff Sgt. David Davis of the 1204th ASB, With a one-minute response time to each bundle, it took the recovery team less than 30 minutes to collect the equipment, parachute, and sensitive items and load them for transport to a more secure location where a unit can then conduct resupply operations, said Army Staff Sgt. David Davis, with the 1204th ASB.

Used in combat operations in Afghanistan, one of the main benefits of JPADS is to increase the availability of cargo that can be delivered to troops on the ground. JPADS allows those units to be quickly and regularly resupplied by air where ground transport often is not practical.

"I have worked with JPADS for seven years as an infantryman on the ground and experienced the benefits firsthand," said Coulson. "The recovery might be difficult in four feet of snow in the Afghan mountains making the precision of the delivery invaluable for those Soldiers who may have to conduct recovery in a hostile environment."

Cargo weighing as much 60,000 pounds of weight can be delivered using the system, but no matter the amount of cargo a successful resupply mission often comes down to a few basic elements.

"Pray for good weather, talk to the pilots constantly, and over-communicate with one another throughout the planning. That is the secret of a successful operation," said Coulson.

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