By Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel
U.S. Central Command
WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2014 – U.S. Army parachute riggers at two bases in the Central Command area of operations are assembling pallets of food and water for humanitarian air drops in the vicinity of Sinjar, Iraq.
The aid was assembled after the Iraqi government sent a request for humanitarian assistance to displaced citizens through the Department of State. As of yesterday, U.S. military aircraft had delivered more than 74,000 meals, ready-to-eat, known as MREs, and more than 15,000 gallons of fresh drinking water, to displaced Yezidis seeking refuge from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists.
"When you need something like this, you need it right now," said Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Schwarz, deployed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, serving with the 11th Quartermaster Company, 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade. "Air drop of the aid bundles allows U.S. forces to deliver those supplies to people who are in a land-locked environment, or the main supply routes are not open or available to them."
The food and water is placed in a Container Deliver System, or CDS, which is a cardboard container placed on a dampening material called a "honeycomb." The supplies are tied together with webbing and fixed to a self-deploying parachute. These one-time-use containers are designed to be quickly opened to deliver supplies as fast as possible after they are dropped from cargo aircraft.
Making quick work of the project, the 18 riggers from the 11th Quartermaster Company can assemble 40 CDS bundles of water in two hours.
"The most challenging portion of the operation is placing these halal meals, which are MREs, on the pallets," said Army Spc. Jonathan Echaves, who is from Queens, New York. "It's like playing Tetris."
The aid assembled for the air drop came from existing stocks of food and water that the Department of Defense maintains in the region for rapid distribution if needed for a natural disaster or other crisis.
Once properly loaded in a C-17 or C-130, the CDS bundles can be flown to where they are needed and rapidly dropped by parachute into the area. An entire aircraft's worth of bundles exit the aircraft in less than 10 seconds. The three aircraft on an Aug. 8 mission were able to drop their cargo in less than 15 minutes.
"It was so important we did this, because these [refugees] were starving, cut off," said Army Staff Sgt. Justin Wright, 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster. "Having all this come together was challenging, but it was definitely worth it."