By Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary, US Air Force Central Combat Camera CorrespondentFebruary 10, 2011
WAZA K'WAH, Afghanistan -- Three C-17 Globemaster IIIs carrying 120 bundles dropped the largest resupply of fuel ever to a remote military outpost in Afghanistan.
Throughout the span of two days, Jan. 29 through 30, Soldiers hustled to collect the pallets, store them and then prepare for the next C-17 pass.
"When these drops come in, our Soldiers immediately move into action to collect the bundles," said Lt. Col. Davis Preston, Support Battalion for Task Force Currahee. "Speed is important. The less time our guys are outside (the fenceline), the better. Today, we're breaking down the bundles in record time. Everyone hustles when a shipment comes in."
The shipment contained a 30-day supply of JP8 fuel. Each plane dropped 40 bundles with each pallet housing four 55-gallon drums of fuel. In total, the four shipments included approximately 20 thousand gallons of JP8. The base runs on roughly 1,200 gallons a day.
"This supply will give the base about a month of fuel," the colonel said. "It's my goal to get them a reserve of 70,000 gallons. Right now, without this drop, we only have 11 days left of fuel -- which becomes a mission critical issue since everything runs on fuel."
The forward operating base runs off of the fuel supplied in these airdrops.
"Places like Was K'wah are completely dependent on air drop," said Capt. John Gruenke, Combined Task Force 101 Headquarters air mobility liasion officer. "Without these drops, the base wouldn't survive -- all missions would cease."
Due to poor to non-existent roadway infrastructure and the high risk of enemy activity, Wasa K'wah has not had a convoy ground resupply in nearly three years.
"It would take a week to clear the route and then we would have to close it because we don't have enough security to keep it open on the return trip," said Col. Sean Jenkins, 4th Brigade commander, Task Force Currahee. "With airdrops, it's an immediate turnaround -- something our Soldiers need out here."
Due to this persistent threat, Wasa K'wah, along with a handful of other FOBs and checkpoints, is a dedicated air drop only location.
"We couldn't sustain Task Force Currahee's outposts without the Air Force," Colonel Preston said.
Air drops have become so essential that when weather or other complications keep the planes at bay, the FOB has to prioritize what capabilities it can sustain. It literally becomes a question over whether or not the people here get heat, hot chow or working communications.
"Without this resupply, we can't run our vehicles, we have no (security force) patrols, we can't communicate," Colonel Preston said. "Fuel is critical to our survival and these air drops make it possible to sustain the mission."
Bottom line, aerial supply is in high demand. Without them, these combat outposts will become ghost towns.
"If our fuel tanks go empty, we have to completely shut down. Our guys would be blind and they'd become sitting ducks for the enemy," Colonel Preston said.
Air drops not only ensure the military outposts get much needed supplies, they also show the dynamic relationship between the Air Force and its sister service, the Army.
"Today proved to be an epiphany on how well joint (operations) work," said Lt. Col. Stacy Maxey, CJTF101 air mobility liaison officer. "This whole mission was a playbook for joint ops. From the Army riggers who palletized the JP8 to the aerial porters and load masters who put the pallets on the plane to the C-17 crew that delivered the supplies right down to the Army contingent here who recovered the supplies -- this was a total force mission proving we are all in."
As a C-17 finishes its pass and the bundles make their descent, the Army has one more request: keep air flow happening.
"Send more aircraft," Colonel Preston said. "Every single one you send, I will fill. There's no limit to what our guys need out here."