August 5, 2014 (by SSgt. Evelyn Chavez) - A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron completed an airdrop for the Afghan National Army using the new Wireless Gate Release System August 1, 2014 at Bagram Airfield Afghanistan.
(From left) SrA Korey King and Stefan Eiermann, 774th EAS loadmasters program the Wireless Gate Release System before an airdrop at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan on August 1, 2014. The squadron completed an airdrop for the Afghan National Army using the new WGRS. [USAF photo by SSgt. Evelyn Chavez]
While still in the testing phase in the U.S., the WGRS, is the primary method crews use in Afghanistan.
"We train on the system before we come out here, and now we are putting it into use," said Capt. Jeffrey Furnary, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron tactician deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas and a native of Vienna, Virginia. "Its main priority is to keep our loadmasters safe. It allows them to work in a safe area, and they can operate the switches and wirelessly drop the bundles without getting in harm's way."
The WGRS is a two part system: the mission control station where loadmasters program mission details and the mechanism that releases the gate holding the bundles that will be air dropped. The mission control system sends a wireless signal to the mechanism which keeps the loadmasters safe behind moving payloads exiting the aircraft.
"With the WGRS the loadmasters no longer have to go behind or beside an unrestrained load," said Master Sgt. Bradley Nulf, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron evaluator loadmaster deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas and a native of Columbia City, Indiana. "The process is also faster, the system saves the loadmasters rigging time by 50 percent. If we were to do two-part drops, we could do in 10 minutes what we used to do in 40."
According to Nulf, there was an urgent operational need for the system, hence the reason why it was brought into theater. A group of experienced subject matter experts from across Air Mobility Command including Little Rock, Arkansas, Dyess, Texas and F.E. Warren, Wyoming Air Force bases met for initial training in September 2013.
"Because all the units that come here have the need and requirement to be certified on the system, we trained individuals within our units to be fully capable of performing the need here," said Nulf.
Despite a glitch in the system that caused the WGRS to release the cargo prematurely, the manufacturing corporation and engineers fixed the problem in order to continue its use. And the system has already proven to save the Air Force money as well.
"It saves the Air Force in material, fuel costs and man hours," said Nulf. "The type of nylon used for our release gates is very expensive. With the conventional system, the nylon would get cut. With the WGRS it doesn't, so the nylon can be used for multiple drops.
"It's a great feeling to see how much the system can do for us," said Nulf. "From being familiar to proficient and to utilize the system out here the way we are supposed to is just great."
As the unit continues to support the fight and mission through airlift capabilities, the WGRS will continue to assist the loadmasters to operate safely and in a more efficient manner.
"It is important to showcase one of our main capabilities in the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft," said Furnary. "One of those are airdrops. This allows us to help the ANA fortify their country so when we leave they have the ability to operate."