LSA ANACONDA, IRAQ - With the majority of American deaths in Iraq attributed to roadside bombs, the Coalition in Iraq is taking steps to counter the threat posed by IEDs. Planners of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) are in the process of perfecting a method of keeping isolated units supplied without putting convoys on the road. It seems the answer, and the answer to so many convoy commanders’ prayers, might come from above in the form of an airdrop.
“Everything we’re doing here is trying to save lives and limit the number of convoys that have to go out,” said Warrant Officer David Bird, a parachute rigger with the 600th Quartermaster detachment here.
Airdropping supplies to remote outposts, such as military transition teams, provincial reconstruction teams, and border transition teams, is crucial to minimizing the effect insurgent IEDs have on Coalition logistics.
“It took four trucks to get these supplies here (in the rigger shed) to us, and that was an inter-post transfer. Outside the wire you’re going to need at least two gun trucks to protect them,” reasoned Bird.
“Then you know they are going to stumble on some “Christmas lights” strung out along the side of the road, so then you are going to have to call out an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) team to clear it. Now even more trucks and more security. As you can see, the costs in fuel and time are spiraling upwards,” Bird continued.
For the riggers it is not just a matter of keeping as many convoys off the road as possible, but also getting the airdrop recovery asset out of the area as fast as possible. They want to make sure they can just snatch their supplies and move with as little hassle as possible.
“The whole thing is we’re trying to save lives so we want to get them off the drop zone quickly. We don’t want them worrying about this item or that item. Just cut, grab, and go,” Bird said.
For Bird and the riggers, it is not just about speed. It is about efficiency and smooth operation. It’s about getting the job done right, safely and quickly.
“We are constantly improving, faster pack up, faster response, providing for faster recovery on the ground,” Bird said
With an eight-man team, the riggers of the 600th QM detachment, who hail from Fort Bragg, N.C., can push out faster than the last detachment even though the last detachment was comprised of more than twice the number of soldiers. On top of that, they are increasing the overall capabilities, Bird said.
Instead of just dropping cargo from Air Force C-130 aircraft, they are also designing loads that can be dropped by Army Sherpa light planes as well as UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-46 Chinook helicopters
“Utilizing US Army platforms will hopefully cut through some red tape, allowing a faster response time for emergency re-supply,” he said.
With little baby steps at first, it is hoped that airdropping supplies to remote units will eventually leap over the precarious routes traveled by ground convoys.
“Once we get the system rolling a lot more smoothly and some of the other units realize that it’s not really that difficult of a task, hopefully they will start using it more often. The overall thought is we want to save lives,” Bird said.
“That is the way we look at it. If we can keep just one convoy off the road for now, than that works for us,” he said