June 21, 2017 (by TSgt. Jonathan Hehnly) - "We aim for first pass success. One pass, one drop," said Maj. Josh Linden, the 386th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron chief of tactics, as he described the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing’s airdrop mission.
Air transportation specialists with the 386th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron push a container delivery system off a 60k Tunner loader and into the cargo bay of a C-130 Hercules in preparation for an air drop at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, over the weekend. [USAF photo by TSgt. Jonathan Hehnly]
The 386th AEW conducted several combat airdrop missions over the past few months, including one over the weekend, in direct support of Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve ground troops.
Providing the fuel that keeps the fight going, the 386th AEW has delivered more than 80 tons of food, water and other critical supplies to various supported forces throughout the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility.
“We are resupplying the warfighters on the ground to sustain their ground operations in the fight against ISIS,” said Capt. Michelle Urso, the 386th EOSS flying intelligence squadron’s officer in charge.
When secure runways are not available for aircraft to land, dropping container delivery system bundles into hostile areas becomes necessary, but getting this close to the fight does not come without inherent risk.
“We are conducting airdrop missions for a reason,” said Urso. “Being a target to be shot down is not out of the realm of possibility for these types of mission.”
Compared to the traditional air-land mission, where the plane takes off, lands and supplies are off-loaded; airdrop missions are more complex and require a lot more coordinating and planning, according to Linden.
“As intel, we work with multiple agencies, sift through all of the current intelligence products and gather the most pertinent data,” said Urso. “From there we analyze the threats and work with tactics to ensure that we have the safest possible routing for our aircrew.”
“Every airdrop is different, even if we go to the same place twice in a row on two different days,” said Linden. “The geo-political climate is different, the threat picture is different, and even the supported forces who are on the ground might be different day to day. Every airdrop is unique out here in the AOR and we take it drop by drop to go plan it.”
These airdrop missions, delivering critical supplies to the frontlines, are what the C-130 Hercules crews work so hard and train for, said Maj. Timothy Lang, the 386th EOSS operations officer.
“It’s a challenging mission, but any one C-130 crew would raise their hand for and jump at the opportunity to execute a combat airdrop,” said Lang. “As the OSS operations officer, I can tell you our squadron brings a team effort from numerous players who are behind the scenes, but still play a pivotal role in a mission’s success.”
From tactics to intelligence to the weather section these teams work together days before the drop, planning and preparing the aircrew for any contingency that could arise. There are aircrew flight equipment personnel, who ensure that the aircrew’s gear is functioning properly, and airfield operations personnel, who make sure everything is in order at the airfield here so that the aircrew can launch without issues. All of the operations support functions combine their efforts to ensure a safe and effective mission execution with first pass success.