'Sky Soldiers' conduct aerial resupply in Latvia
May 3, 2014
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MILITARY CAMP ADAZI, Latvia (May 5, 2014) -- Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade planned and executed an aerial resupply mission at Adazi Drop Zone here Friday.
Approximately 150 paratroopers from the brigade are currently participating in exercises in Latvia, which are part of a series of expanded American land force training activities with European partners that are scheduled to take place in the next few months and beyond.
Paratroopers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, demonstrated their capability to deliver critical supplies via parachute from a U.S. Air Force C-17. The drop provided the Soldiers on the ground with food, water and other supplies to support upcoming training with their Latvian allies.
"Today's mission demonstrates our capabilities to rapidly receive supplies while deployed," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Shannon, an airborne operations non-commissioned officer with the 173rd. "While there are other units in Europe that have internal capability to survey and certify drops zones, we are the only conventional unit who is able to react in such a timely manner. We are also the quickest, able to aerially deliver supplies anywhere in the world in 18 hours."
Having the ability to dispatch supplies by parachute can save time and money, as well as get supplies to areas that are otherwise unreachable.
"The 173rd can airdrop pretty much anything," said Sgt. Michael Everist, an aerial delivery parachute rigger from the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion. "We can drop consumable supplies, building materials and equipment -- even vehicles."
Once the supply request was forwarded up to the brigade headquarters, planning began on the most expeditious way to get it to the troops in the field.
"We showed that need for these supplies, we coordinated our assets available and then made it happen as a team," said 1st Lt. Augustine Martinez, the supply officer for the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment team. "We worked with [173rd's parachute riggers back in Italy] to bundle the supplies together and then they sent it to us by parachute faster than it would have taken to transport it by truck, which would have taken several days versus the few hours it took to do by plane."
An aerial resupply can require coordination with many agencies including the U.S. Air Force, as well as local military and civil air authorities.
"It takes a team to make a mission happen like this; it's a big process," said Shannon. "But with the partnerships the brigade already has in place, we had the drop zone ready to receive well within the 24-hour window."
Shannon arrived in Latvia before the drop and worked with Latvian partners to confirm the current drop zone survey and certify it for American use.
"The Latvian range team and I drove around to identify hazards and to notate the capabilities of the training area," said Shannon. "While we here we also identified two drop zones for paratrooper use as well."
Once the coordination was finished and the decision to airdrop has been made, the logistics of the drop was turned over to the brigade's aerial delivery section.
The parachute rigger team decided the best way to dispatch the supplies, said Everist. Then with Air Force partners in Aviano, Italy, the load was jointly inspected, loaded into a plane and dropped.
The planning and work of the multiple parties was visible when the aircraft flew high over the drop zone and nine parachute-borne pallets dropped silently to the ground.
"It's an awesome feeling to be part of an airborne mission," said Shannon. "Sure, it's dangerous but we train constantly like this to keep it safe."
The 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct the full of range of military operations across the United State European, Central and Africa Commands areas of responsibility.
The brigade recently deployed approximately 600 paratroopers to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as part of an unscheduled land-forces exercise to demonstrate commitment to NATO obligations and sustain interoperability with allied forces.