EGELSEE, Germany--Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, in collaboration with NATO allies and partner nations, executed the largest airdrop of heavy equipment since the unit's reactivation in June of 2000. The airdrop was part of exercise Saber Junction 16 at the Hohenfels Training Area in southeastern Germany on April 09, 2016.
The C-130 and C-17aircrafts released equipment from altitudes around 800 feet. Approximately 150 supply bundles, vehicles, communications equipment, and indirect weapons systems were delivered to the drop zone in under an hour.
The sheer number of equipment dropped required in depth planning and logistical coordination across the joint and combined force as well as the host nation.
"It's on our 173rd logistics team, headed by Chief Tyus, to work with the Air Force to ensure that all load plans fit," said 1st Lt. Robert Wright the air operations officer in charge with the 1st Battalion 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade. "Yet, the commander ultimately has to make a decision on exactly how he's going to balance humans vs. equipment.
Immediately following the equipment drops, T-11 parachutes flooded the sky carrying Italian and U.S. paratroopers. Soon after their landing, they secured their chutes and moved toward their respective objectives; creating a security perimeter enabling others to quickly unpack and reassemble equipment loads and weapons systems. Yet, the recovery of equipment was not easy.
"The name of the game is all about time," said Sgt. 1st Class William Bruniek, a 1st Squadron 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade support noncommissioned officer. "How fast you can get [the equipment] back [into operation] because you're looking at a 3-5 minute response time when you get shot at by the enemy."
The drop zone was unfamiliar territory for these troops. The dropped equipment and weapons were scattered within a densely wooded two-mile radius. Opposing forces could be lurking at any corner.
Crucial to the success of this rotation is the seizure of the STOL Strip, an improved narrow aircraft runway. This strip will allow aircraft carrying mission essential equipment and more Paratroopers to enter into the training area.
In order to protect the short takeoff and landing strip, it was imperative that the allied Paratroopers air drop heavy weapons systems to augment the lethality of the maneuver elements.