Supply from sky: Parachute riggers make difference in Kandahar
December 21, 2010
- There were 278,265 pounds in total weight put out in September.
- That about increased to 544,483 pounds for October.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Dec. 21, 2010) -- 631,684 pounds.
That is the amount of food, ammunition, water, fuel and more, that the parachute riggers from Special Operations Task Force - South have packaged and put out of aircraft in Afghanistan in the month of November alone.
What they rig winds up parachuting into remote locations to supply U.S. Special Operations Forces teams on the ground.
"Anything I can fit, basically, I'll drop," said Sgt. 1st Class David D. Doris, air drop supervisor at SOTF-South.
From plywood, to 55-gallon drums of diesel, to cases of Meals-Ready-to-Eat and water, everything gets packaged up at a facility on Kandahar Airfield. The parachute-rigging facility is one of three in the country run by Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan.
It's a place that never sees a quiet moment.
Doris and his eight-man crew run around the clock, with a night crew that prepares bundles to be rigged by the day crew.
"Just when my guys are done rigging, they'll come in here, take a dinner break, catch a couple hours of sleep, and then they could have a load-out at two in the morning," Doris said. "They'll load the trucks, transport the equipment to the flight line, download it to the airplane and inspect it. Then get back up at 8:30 in the morning and do it again."
Setting up the container delivery systems, known as CDS bundles, are Soldiers like Spc. Blake H. Howard.
Howard and his crew mates can rig to a parachute anywhere from 500 to 2,200 pounds in a CDS bundle. The bundles are what they load on the plane and ultimately what winds up in the hands of the SOF teams in the field. It's a job they take great pride in doing, he said.
"We know we are stopping [improvised-explosive device] incidents, and that is a good feeling," said Howard, who has been a rigger for three years. "The drops put supplies right on the teams. It keeps them from traveling, or from supply trucks driving to their locations."
The process of getting supplies from ground, to air, and back to ground, starts in the form of a supply request from the team in the field. That request goes to the SOTF-South service detachment, commanded by Capt. Mike Woodall.
"Once we determine the best way to get supplies to the team is through the air, Sergeant Doris and I get together and we work out a plan," Woodall said.
Woodall and the SOTF-South supply and transportation team work to get the supplies to the rigging crew, who then packages them so they can be dropped from an airplane.
"It's a team effort from everyone in the service detachment," Woodall said. "These guys do a phenomenal job."
The riggers, too, say that it is a team effort.
Most have been working together for a couple of years, said Spc. Ian S. Stevenson, and they all work together back in their home station of Fort Bragg, N.C., as members of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).
Stevenson, on his first deployment, says he takes great satisfaction in doing his job, even if the hours are "long and crazy."
"It's a good feeling knowing that the Special Forces teams are able to eat and drink because of the work we do," he said. "And the best part of the job is when a team member comes in here and thanks us."
Knowing whom they are helping is what keeps the crew motivated. It is also what helped fire them up when they were worn out a couple of months ago.
The SOTF-South team has averaged, throughout its history over the years, roughly 200,000 pounds in total weight delivered per month.
The current team went from that average in September, to doubling production in October, and increasing on that in November.
There were 212 loads put out in September; to 405 in October. From 278,265 pounds in total weight, to 544,483 pounds.
Their supervisor noticed the increased production was taking its toll.
"These guys were really tired in October," Doris said. "I told them to focus on who's receiving the supplies in the field. I told them, 'those guys are the ones getting shot at, and we need to get them the things they need.'"
The riggers reacted, and production levels continue to increase. Again, it came back to pride.
"These guys are driven on pride, and these numbers are reflective of that," Doris said. "If I didn't have a rock solid team, these numbers wouldn't happen, and that's the bottom line."
On a wall in the riggers office and living quarters hangs decorated saw blades. They represent the blades used to cut the cushioning cartons placed on the bundles.
The saw blades are painted and decorated with previous unit names and the amount of total weight pushed out during the rotation.
"It's the million-pound club," Doris said.
But he added with a smile, "We're on track to push out more than three million pounds this rotation."
That's a feat no other SOTF-South crew has achieved.