BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Dec. 24, 2010) -- The 101st Sustainment Brigade is dropping 101 bundles of Christmas cheer directly to the Soldiers living in remote Forward Operating Bases throughout eastern Afghanistan.
Dubbed, "Big Drop II," the "Lifeliners" brigade is using their Low Cost, Low Altitude aerial delivery system to get some much-needed supplies, as well as some extra goodies, like snacks and personal hygiene items, to the troops. The brigade conducted a similar aerial delivery drop during their last deployment to Afghanistan in 2008.
The delivery mission, which began Dec. 22, and will conclude on Christmas Day, is a combined effort between the brigade and its Unit Ministry Team, who reached back home to the families and community groups at Fort Campbell, Ky., and asked for their support.
"We put out a list of things that people could send, and they're still people trying to send things to us even now," said Maj. Tammie Crews, brigade chaplain, UMT, 101st SBDE. "The thought was to be able to do something a little special out to the FOBs who don't have a lot of the amenities we have here at Bagram."
Crews said the Soldiers assigned to the FOBs face many hardships and dangerous situations daily, and she wanted to let them know they're being thought of during Christmas.
The brigade has trained on using Low Cost, Low Altitude delivery, or LCLA, for the past 18 months. Using smaller aircraft and non-perishable parachutes, supplies can be dropped directly into a FOB or a nearby landing zone from a minimum 150 feet in the air. The accuracy of the drop lessens the chance of Soldiers being victims of roadside bomb attacks.
The UMT and parachute riggers assigned to the 11th Quartermaster Detachment, 101st SBDE, spent most of December gathering and packing the bundles for the drop.
Brigade Commander Col. Michael Peterman said being able to deliver the bundles directly to the FOB's was a way to ensure a better Christmas for those Soldiers far from home.
"Because these packages are coming directly from hometown America, we wanted to ensure that nothing got left on the side," he said.
Peterman also rewarded the riggers for their help by allowing the riggers to fly on the aircraft and watch as the bundles were dropped onto the FOBs.
"The riggers are a very special group," he said. "Their motto is, 'I will always be sure.' They're the ones who have to ensure 100 percent accuracy in those bundles because lives depend on them."
Sgt. Joshua Wetzel, squad leader for the 11th QM Detachment, said it was good to know that the riggers were able to do some things for the Soldiers to make them feel better during the holidays.
"We're able to get some stuff to them that they want to have, as well as what they need," he said.
Spc. Nathaniel Mumbulo and Spc. Johnny Perez, both riggers with the 11th QM Detachment, were two of the riggers who flew on the drops.
They said compared to their fellow Soldiers assigned to outlying FOBs - having access to a Post Exchange to purchase snacks and other goods, decent Internet access, hot meals daily, and a relatively safe environment, minus the occasional indirect fire from insurgents - they understand they have it pretty good.
"I can't imagine what it must be like to have the delivery drops come. We're their only source of survival," Perez said.
Mumbulo said he actually put on a harness and helped push cargo out of the aircraft. The experience made him appreciate how fortunate he was in doing his job, he said.
"It puts things in perspective," Mumbulo said. "We're not directly in the fight like many of those Soldiers are, but we do serve an integral part of their mission."
Mumbulo also said it was good to know he was helping a Soldier enjoy Christmas a little better.
"We got to be Santa Claus for them," he said.
Regional Command - East, Afghanistan