JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
Airmen from the 15th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, integrated with the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to conduct air drop proficiency training for both services over Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Feb. 20-21.
A C-17 Globemaster III aircrew from Joint Base Charleston facilitated training for the ABNSOTD. ABNSOTD personnel conducted familiarization and proficiency training drops on test mannequins which allows the Army to test new chutes and equipment, and loadmasters from JB Charleston executed heavy training drops for re-qualification.
Air Force Capt. Brad States, 15th AS aircraft commander, said conducting airdrop training with the ABNSOTD provides different challenges that help aircrews adapt and become more experienced.
“Training like this is important because it allows the user to go ahead and experience dropping on a C-17,” said States. “It’s also good for us because, when we drop here locally, we have standard training platforms and bundles we use. So when you go to Pope you get different weights, different rigging styles and different pieces of equipment to drop. We were able to drop a Humvee so the loadmaster got to practice rigging something nonstandard and also got to experience a mannequin rack which is something rarely used.”
While the challenge of nonstandard cargo presents challenges for JB Charleston loadmasters, Air Force Master Sergeant Brandon Dahlstrom, C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, explains why the bulk of work for loadmasters is completed on the ground.
“It’s a lot easier to fix a problem you catch on the ground when you’re not moving than it is in the air when things are happening,” said Dahlstrom. “Sometimes when a chain of events have been set in motion it can be really dangerous to have to interrupt that. It’s just always better to solve things at ground speed zero when you have time to think instead of when you have seconds to think where a mistake could cause damage, injure somebody or worse.”
JB Charleston’s aircrew weren’t the only ones getting experience from the joint integration training. Army Maj. Cam Jordan, ABNSOTD deputy chief of tests, said operating a 20 foot rack of cast rollers used to deploy 24 mannequins, each weighing up to 350 pounds, out of a moving jet presents its own unique challenges.
“This is proficiency for our riggers and jumpmasters in just using these systems because this is a unique system,” said Jordan. “This is the only one in the Army. For most of us this is the first time we’ve touched this. For us, repetitions, getting comfortable on the ground, then doing it in an aircraft, there’s no substitute for doing this when you’re 1,000 feet in the air.”
When training 1,000 feet in the air, Jordan knows airlift wings like the 437th are an integral part of the ABNSOTD’s joint mission.
“We test everything from the smallest device that will go into a ruck sack or in a container to the biggest vehicle that the Air Force can throw out of the back of a plane, up to 42,000 pounds,” Said Jordan. “It’s important we maintain that [relationship] with the Air Force to make sure we can do training safely and keep testing new vehicles for the Army.”
States knows joint training is vital for tactical operations, and that exercises like these help create an effective and integrated fighting force ready to combat any potential enemy anywhere in the world at any time.
“It’s important to go and train with them in a joint environment because when we go execute something like this real world, we’re going to be dropping and working with other services,” said States. “We’re not asking the questions of how we do this as far as procedures, we’re asking how do we do it and mitigate the risk to our crews and our troops in a timely manner. So we don’t need to go and study how to do air drop, at that point in time we need to focus on how to mitigate the threat and go and effectively infill to a certain location anywhere in the world at any point in time.”