CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. –
There are times when an airdrop is the only way servicemembers in Iraq or Afghanistan can get supplies, and a particular flight here ensures that mission can be accomplished.
The 437th Operations Support Squadron Combat Tactics Flight is responsible for ensuring more than 125 pallets are airdropped successfully each month without error.
"We play an important part in making sure Charleston AFB is ready for the real-world situations we're facing today," said Capt. Dan Lang, 437 OSS tactics pilot.
The Combat Tactics Flight consists of six tactics pilots, three tactics loadmasters, two survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructors, 10 joint airdrop inspectors and a civilian who work together to successfully employ a C-17 in combat operations, said Captain Lang.
The pilots and loadmasters in this group go through tactically-focused training to prepare for real-world situations, and to increase their knowledge of the defensive capabilities of the C-17.
"If things go wrong with an airdrop, we try to figure out why it happened so we can prevent it from happening in the future," said Captain Lang.
However, a JAI is the final person to inspect the cargo for an air drop before the C-17 takes-off.
"We make sure that our C-17s can drop anything, anywhere in the world within 48 hours," said Staff Sgt. Terry E. Langston, 437 OSS NCO in charge of JAI training.
A JAI is responsible for inspecting eight-foot heavy equipment platforms, eight-foot dual row platforms and container delivery systems that are loaded with cargo.
They inspect these items to make sure they have parachutes that are operational, the proper number of chutes and the proper restraints. They also make sure the bundle is rigged correctly so it will release properly when the airdrop takes place.
"We always inspect the cargo when it's waiting in the shed to be shipped and then we also inspect it right before take-off," said Tech. Sgt. Sidney de Leon Mazariegos, 437 OSS NCO in charge of scheduling. "We save the Air Force a lot of money by catching and fixing any problems while the pallets are still on the ground."
It is the responsibility of a JAI to prevent an airdrop malfunction that would cost the Air Force thousands of dollars of damage to aircraft, cargo or the aircrew.
"Working with the Combat Tactics Flight gives me a greater ability to understand airdrop mission procedures and I also get a better overall view of the Air Force," said Sergeant Langston.
Aside from their work, the Combat Tactics Flight is active in community service. In past months, they have helped with the Special Olympics, a local food bank and marched in the Washington Light Infantry Parade. Wednesday, they sponsored a blood drive at the Fitness & Sports Center.
"We volunteer for something every quarter as a group because we want to show the community we appreciate their support and that our support for them is just another part of our job," said Tech Sgt. Terry Wright, 437 OSS Combat Tactics Flight assistant superintendent.