By Tech. Sgt. John Jung, Special to the ParaglideOctober 16, 2009
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - An Air Force C-130H Hercules was dedicated to the Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Afghanistan, Oct. 5.
The transport was originally dedicated at Pope Air Force Base, Oct. 25, 2008, to Fort Bragg's entire 82nd Abn. Div.
Tail number 79282 from the 440th Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, Pope AFB, has official nose art prominently displaying an American eagle in flight surrounding the iconic 82nd Abn.'s insignia wings on the aircraft's fuselage. The plane also sports "Bragg-Pope" on its tail flash representing the close relationship between Fort Bragg and Pope AFB.
Using the Total Force, an active-duty crew deployed from the 2nd Airlift Squadron, an associate unit of the 440th AW, to fly the reserve C-130 Hercules to Bagram. The crew was comprised of Captains Alan Rathjen and Laura Easton, both C-130 pilots, and Staff Sgt. Matt Metz, C-130 loadmaster.
"The aircraft is being dedicated to the 82nd in honor of the cohesion of the Air Force and the Army in the fight in Afghanistan," said St. Louis native Capt. Rathjen, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.
While the dedication was symbolic in nature, the tangible effects of the C-130 are felt everyday by Airmen and Soldiers alike.
"A few days ago we airdropped MRE's (meals ready to eat) and water down to Soldiers at a FOB (forward operating base)," said Easton, 774th EAS. "It's the mission we trained for at the 2nd AS and (one) we're ready to employ here for the joint fight," said the Pittsburg native.
"I came here to be a part of history," said Master Sgt. John Plasse, 38th Infantry Division, Afghan national security forces liaison. "It's great to have something you've worked in, flown into and out of combat with ... and then it's gotten you home safely all those times ... dedicated to you and your fellow Soldiers," said the activated Indiana Army Guardsman.
Bringing critical supplies via airdrop to Soldiers on the ground is what the Hercules is suited to and is excelling at in Afghanistan. The "Herks" at Bagram have been averaging between 5 and 8 tons of cargo per airdrop mission.
Continuing the overall mission to feed, fuel and arm the fight, September marked the fourth consecutive month in which an increase of supplies was airdropped by the Air Force to coalition partners and local citizens across Afghanistan.
In total, 4.1 million pounds of goods were dropped to forward operating bases, combat outposts and other austere locations in support of ground forces.
"It's our day-to-day job," said Staff Sgt. Matt Metz, 774th EAS. "I'm proud to have brought this C-130 to Afghanistan for the dedication, but I'm more gratified being the loadmaster who gets to airdrop (supplies) to the guys on the ground," said the Springfield, Va., native.
Airdrops have proven to be a safe and reliable method for delivering vital supplies into locations where roads don't exist, the terrain is too mountainous, the cargo is too heavy for helicopters or where the insurgent threat is too great.