(CAMP ADAZI, LATVIA) - Before any airborne operation can take place, the parachutes must first be laid out, inspected, and carefully packed so that none of the components inside are tangled or out of place. During World War II, this was the responsibility of each Paratrooper but today; a crew of parachute riggers accomplishes these tasks.
Parachute riggers assigned to 601st Quartermaster Company, Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, packed and loaded parachutes Dec. 2, 2016 at Camp Adazi, Latvia. The parachutes are for 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne, preparing for an upcoming airborne operation.
The "Sky Soldiers" of 173rd Airborne are on a training rotation in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. led effort in Eastern Europe that demonstrates U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.
"Parachute riggers are essential to the 173rd Airborne and its airborne operations because they need parachutes to jump and we pack those parachutes," said U.S. Army Pfc. Estefan Daza, native of Miami, Fla., 19-year-old parachute rigger, assigned to 601st Quartermaster Company, Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne.
Each of the 105 parachutes packed by the riggers had to be inspected by the noncommissioned officer in charge.
"I have to make sure the parachutes are packed and ready to go on the date that the unit requested, making sure we have the ability to conduct functions checks and fix malfunctions," said U.S Army Staff Sgt. Cruz Celis, NCOIC, 601st Quartermaster Company, Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne. "I like doing the work. Packing parachutes gets repetitive, but at the end of the day, you are saving lives."
When jumping from a military aircraft and descending onto a drop zone at a rate of almost 14 miles per hour, every detail matters.
"I want to help people," said U.S. Army Pfc. Jeremy Casiano, native of Clinton, Mass., 21-year-old parachute rigger assigned to 601st Quartermaster Company, Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne. "Packing parachutes saves people's lives and when we do other drops like food, water, and ammunition, we are helping people then also."
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct a full range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
The parachute riggers play an important role in making sure the 'Sky Soldiers' are able to rapidly assemble and deploy with the equipment they need to get the mission done.
"If it wasn't for the parachute riggers, I could not do my job," said U.S. Army Pfc. Matthew Schabacker, 23-year-old Paratrooper, assigned to Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne.
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51 country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.