SOUTHWEST ASIA - The 824th Quartermaster Company, Detachment 10 hosted the Fifth Bi-Annual Theater Aerial Delivery Symposium beginning April 4, 2011. The purpose of the four day symposium was to facilitate discussion among the different branches of the Armed Services and aerial delivery counterparts within the theater of operations. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jimmy Taylor, Senior Airdrop System Technician with the Army's 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC), stated that the purpose of this symposium was to identify trends, issues, and shortfalls within the full spectrum of logistics, aircraft, and infrastructure that enables aerial delivery capacity in the Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility.

The Commander of the 824th Rigger Detachment 10, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Marion Pettus, welcomed all attendees and presented the agenda for each day. "This is the first symposium that we (824th DET 10) are hosting and I look forward to meeting my counterparts and sharing ideas on airdrop capabilities of deployed locations," Pettus commented.

The conference was opened by Taylor who stated that all previous due-outs had been completed and there was no significant information to brief at the moment. Introductions were then made by all attendees. The audience present for the symposium consisted of representatives of Air Mobility Delivery (AMD), Army Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems (PMFSS), and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Also present were Air Deliver Officers and Technicians (ADO/ADT) from 4th Sustainment Brigade (SB), 230th SB, 2nd Marines Expeditionary Force United States Marines Corps (USMC), 7th SB, United States Army Central (ARCENT) G4, Special Forces Command (USASFC), and Air Mobility Task Force (TF CROM) Air Force.

Air Force Col. Dave Almand, AMD distribution chief, spoke about air resupply logistics to the warfighters in hard-to-resupply areas. "We built their confidence and now we have to sustain that," he mentioned in reference to the Soldiers who depend on air-delivered supplies to their Forward Operating Bases. Almand also presented the AMD's projections on aircraft necessary to support the growing airdrop requirements, as well as a projection on bundles based on boots on ground. He explained to the audience that at the present, they are trending within approximately 3 percent of all AMD projections which means the theater has the aircraft and rigging capacity, but the shortfalls remain in the manufacturing base where keeping up with current demands on commodities is challenging. Almand add that if these trends continue, it will create a huge challenge with greater than 6,000 bundles projected to be air-delivered to warfighters in June 2011.

Army Maj. Robert Jarzyna, assistant product manager of Cargo Aerial Delivery with PMFSS, introduced himself by stating his job is to gather information from his customers, the riggers, and the Air Force in order to develop new systems to meet the needs of the users who deliver critical supplies in austere zones of the battlefield. Jarzyna went over the characteristics of the Joint Precision Aerial Delivery System (JPADS). This is an accurate system which senses the terrain within specified grid coordinates and effectively identifies the flattest surface(s) within those coordinates. The JPADS autonomously navigates along a predetermined glide and flight path to accurately deliver supplies and equipment. JPADS is a family of extended-glide aerial delivery systems that can deliver critical supplies and equipment with precision. JPADS are steerable systems using autonomous GPS-based guidance systems with appropriate navigational software for computing glide path and controlling descent. The PMFSS office has sent fourteen JPADS to various locations in Afghanistan where the systems have been updated with terrain-avoidance software that steers the parachute around terrain once the unit is below 1,000 feet, or what is commonly known as the Above Ground Level (AGL) threshold. The PMFSS team is also developing a one-time use JPADS 2K system with a cost of $5,800, versus $13,000 for each of the current JPADS. The JPADS 2K generation is already pre-rigged, and the APM is conducting a one-time purchase of 300 systems. Jarzyna concluded his briefing by stating that the PMFSS is dedicated to improving the load survivability, and that they will continue to develop programs with more a advanced mechanical system.

Taylor presented the current manufacturing goal for Low Cost Low Velocity (LCLV) parachutes of 5,700 per month. He mentioned that by the end of March 2011, 6,254 LCLV parachutes were produced and shipped to theater. In addition, he expressed his concerns on the current fuel barrel contracts under which DLA is currently working, "the supply chain is continually challenged to keep pace with demands." Mr. Scott Martin, PMFSS Cargo Aerial Delivery, stated that their mission is to develop a modular suite of low cost, expendable parachute/container air items that can be used with low velocity, high velocity and free-drop container delivery loads compatible with USAF and aerial port handling equipment. Scott mentioned that the Low Cost High Velocity parachutes are packed during manufacturing which eliminates the need of riggers to pack the parachutes in theater. Scott finished his presentation by stating that their goal is to continue utilizing alternate material supplies in order to keep up with the high demand for parachutes.

The second day of the Symposium included the 824th's rigger shed tour where attendees observed a demonstration on four different types of bundles prepared by Detachment 10: high velocity Unitize Group Ration Express (UGRE), low velocity water, high velocity water, and low velocity fuel, GP8. Air Force Lt. Col. Stacey Maxery, Air Mobility Liaison for Task Force CROM, commented, "it is a great job what the riggers are doing. It is a pleasure to see them working with such sense of urgency." Army Sgt. Brian Smith, an 824th rigger, explained to the audience that they rig to the best of their ability to increase survivability of the supplies.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jonathan Hill, Air Deliver Noncommissioned Officer in Charge with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (MLG), USMC, was pleased with the tour of the facility and mentioned that he was impressed with Pettus's riggers, "they (824th DET 10) do the most and they do it the most efficient way."

Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Sarah Bergstrom, Officer in Charge of the 2nd MLG, USMC, commented on the DET 10 riggers' two assembly lines, one for rigging the bundles and one for inspecting the bundles that are ready to be loaded in the tracks. "It is a great system which allows the riggers to maximize time, and thus, be able to produce more loads," Bergstrom said. Hill had the opportunity to present facts about the rigging operations the Marines conduct in their facility in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. He stated that they are now equipped with two new 120 x 120 foot shelters to rig, with a capacity of 30 bundles per day. In regards to Marine rigging capacities, Taylor commented that the goal is for Marine riggers to be able to support fellow Marines. However, Airdrop missions above their capacity will continue to be shifted to Kandahar (KAF), Bagram Air Field, or Qatar. Pettus expressed that his limitations come from riggers performing duties outside of their designated role, such as performing escort duties for vendors arriving with supplies, and transporting loads to and from the airfield almost every day. Taylor agreed on reporting this information to the TSC, and in turn, the possibilities of having additional Soldiers assist the riggers on a six-month rotational basis.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jose Martinez, the 7th SB ADT, presented the rigging capacities currently in Afghanistan. Martinez expressed that even though they have expanded airdrop capacities at KAF, they are still limited in manpower and they are receiving assistance from the British riggers in order to accomplish the mission.

"Overall, the Bi-Annual Air Delivery Symposium was a success," stated Taylor. Participants had the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with their counterparts from different areas in theater. "I received useful feedback from major elements on rigging capabilities, manpower, facility, and current airdrop statistics," stated Army Capt. Miguel Rosario, 4th SB ADO. The next Aerial Delivery Symposium is tentatively scheduled for the last week of August 2011. Taylor agreed on taking into account the After Action Review comments from the participants who, many of them, requested the cargo Air Delivery Combat Developer, The U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), and The United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) to attend future symposiums so they can hear first-hand input and feedback on aerial delivery requirements in theater.