By Sgt. Fay Conroy, 21st Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs OfficeOctober 28, 2008
MIESAU ARMY DEPOT, Germany -- Parachute riggers are an airborne Soldier's best friend. When a Soldier jumps out of an airplane, he wants to be confident his parachute will be fully functional -- especially when something as small as string can render a chute inoperable.
"We are what keeps the airborne, airborne," said Warrant Officer Alexander Alvarado, airdrop systems technician for U.S. Army Europe's 5th Quartermaster Company, 39th Transportation Battalion, 21st Theater Sustainment Command.
Keeping the airborne airborne is exactly what the parachute riggers of the 5th are currently doing as they "reset" the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based at Vicenza, Italy, following the brigade's combat tour in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Resetting means that we are packing their jump chutes so that they can jump again and get their jump status back," said Alvarado. "We also are going to get their jumpmasters and riggers updated on training that they missed while they were deployed."
During the reset, 25 riggers from the 5th will pack 3,000 parachutes in a month's time. Over the next two to three months, the riggers will pack about 8,000 parachutes.
In spite of the high volume passing through their hands, safety is always first.
"Safety is the most important because we have people's lives in our hands," said parachute rigger Spc. Steven Clement.
At each step the packing is inspected by a parachute packing inspector to ensure that nothing is missing.
"They call 'rigger' every step until the end. I check the step that they just did and tell them to go to the next step," said Sgt. Maikeld Quarles, a parachute packing inspector.
Throughout the process there are two checks -- to inspect the work being done and to ensure that everything is serviceable. Once everything is done there is also a final inspection before a pack is ready to be used.
This thorough process has ensured that riggers of the 5th QM Co. have had zero malfunctions for as long as anyone can remember.
"It is a very stressful job," said Alvarado. "The Soldiers take their jobs very personally because we also jump our packs."
In November the 5th QM Co. will jump with the 173rd ABCT in Grafenwoehr, Germany.
"It is great when you can support the airborne community," said Capt. Josielyn Carrasquillo, commander of the 5th. "We know that we have a job and a mission, which is to bring the 173rd back to jump status. I know that they miss that."