War on Terrorism

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bagram joint airdrop inspectors ensure ground troops receive supplies

by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
455th Air Expeditionary Wing

8/22/2013 - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- What do rubber bands, string and parachutes have in common?

They are all components of an airdrop bundle inspected by the only two qualified Joint Airdrop Inspectors assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron here.

Airdrops provide ground members in isolated locations of Afghanistan with food, fuel and supplies daily. Prior to an airdrop taking place, there are three members who must ensure the cargo is loaded properly in order for an airdrop to successfully occur. The U.S. Army Combined Joint Task Force riggers, who load the cargo onto the aircraft, attach ties and static lines securing it to the aircraft. The JAI inspector whose job is to inspect the riggers work, and the aircraft's loadmaster who confirms the JAI's performed an inspection. The three signatures are important because if an incident does occurs during an airdrop, there will be three members who can help explain the reasoning.

"Once the airdrop cargo is loaded on a C-17 and C-130(J) here, we are in charge of inspecting it," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Johnson, NCO in charge JAI office deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash. "Attention to detail is very important. We make sure the correct parachute is being used according to the cargos weight and the static lines that deploy the shoots are connected to anchor cables securing it to the aircraft. If static lines are not connected properly, a malfunction could occur during the airdrop causing the parachute not to deploy resulting and destroying the dropped cargo."

There are two types of inspections JAI's have to perform. A before loading inspection to ensure cargo is aircraft ready and rigged in accordance with proper rigging procedures and an after inspection of the cargo once it's been completely loaded on the aircraft.

"In a deployed environment we inspect more cargo bundles compared to home station," said Johnson, native of Wiesbaden, Germany. "We inspect the max capacity an aircraft can fit for one drop, which is 40 bundles on a C-17, 20 on a C-130J and 16 on a C-130. It is easier to do both inspections if it's needed on the aircraft."

At home station both members perform JAI and loadmaster duties but they are both limited to the aircraft on their base. Johnson works with C-17's daily and Larue C-130's. While deployed they are both teaching each other about the different Air Mobility Command aircraft used to perform airdrop missions.

"I like learning about the different aircraft's platforms," said Senior Airman Shaun Larue JAI journeyman, deployed from Pope Air Force Base, N.C. "Here I've had the opportunity to learn about C-130 and J models. They are different when it comes to the air drop inspection checklist."

The two Airmen work day and night inspecting cargo. The most they have inspected in one day was three aircraft in one night. Each inspection takes about two hours to complete. The JAI's are the last set of eyes on the cargo before it is in the air.

"When we sign the checklist we are ensuring the airdrop will occur smoothly," said Larue, native of Dayton, Ohio. "Our mission is important because we make sure the ground members get the supplies they need in good condition."

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