May 5, 2018 (by Capt. Chelsi Johnson) - In the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan two U.S. C-130J Hercules aircraft airdropped over 30 Container Delivery System (CDS) bundles to a Resolute Support Expeditionary Advisory Package (EAP), May 4.
Two C-130J Super Hercules and its aircrew assigned to the 746th EAS from Al Udeid AB and the 774th EAS from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, prepare to refuel after an air drop of supplies to an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, May 5, 2018. The 774th EAS is an active duty unit based out of the 41st AS, Little Rock, Ark, that worked together with the 746th EAS, a reserve unit based out of the 403rd Wing at Keesler AFB. The mission represents the first dual-formation airdrop consisting of aircraft from two separate units. [USAF photo by SrA Xavier Navarro]
Unlike previous combat airdrop missions, this dual-formation airdrop was executed by two geographically separated units, the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (EAS) an active-duty squadron, located at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, a reserve squadron located at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
"The uniqueness about this mission is that it’s two separate units, stationed in two separate countries, coming together for a single airdrop, which to my knowledge has never been done before in combat in this country,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bret Echard, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander.
Echard pointed out that mission planning for a combat dual-formation airdrop, in hostile territory, isn’t easy when a unit is together, let alone when the second aircraft comes from a geographically-separate unit.
"For any large or small operation, especially in a mountainous terrain environment like Afghanistan, communication is key and must start at the basic level of planning,” said Echard. "It has to start early and it has to be often because the smallest contingencies that pop up, and they will pop up in Afghanistan, require a solid plan from the get-go, which starts with a basic level of communication.”
The 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron and the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron trained for this type of mission together while participating in Green Flag Little Rock, an Air Mobility Command exercise last October.
"It’s very unique to build a relationship with the Keesler folks in a controlled training environment back home and then bring those capabilities to the warfighter out here and actually execute the mission together,” said Echard. "Those relationships, which are key to anything we do over here, were built months ago and now we are lucky enough to execute them in combat.”
The units’ mission included providing logistical support to a Resolute Support Expeditionary Advisory Package.
"[The] C-130s delivered enough supplies to sustain the ground forces supporting the Expeditionary Advisory Package for another week,” said Echard. "[This was] a tactical mission that impacts the bigger plan, at the strategic level in this country.”
Expeditionary Advisory Packages provide tailored support to regional Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) commands for both enduring and emergent capability gaps.
"Our role in that is to sustain them [Expeditionary Advisory Package],” said Echard. "To airlift whatever the ground forces commander requires for mission success and deliver those requirements anywhere in Afghanistan.”
For U.S. Air Force Col. Jennie Johnson, Deputy Director of Mobility Forces and a 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130J Hercules pilot, this is why she puts on a uniform every day.
"Being able to help the advisors who are training the Afghans so they can secure their own country is a huge win for our Airmen,” said Johnson. "This is a fantastic mission to be able to support and they’re thrilled to be here and doing it.”
Established in 2015, Resolute Support (RS) is a NATO-led, non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), who assumed nationwide responsibility for Afghanistan’s security following the conclusion of the previous NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission. Its purpose is to help the Afghan security forces and institutions develop the capacity to defend Afghanistan and protect its citizens in a sustainable manner.