By Sgt. Andrea Merritt, Combined Joint Task Force 1 - AfghanistanNovember 28, 2011
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Nov. 28, 2011) -- With the inhospitable, mountainous terrain surrounding Forward Operating Base Curry making vehicle maneuver nearly impossible, units have relied heavily on air assets to receive supplies.
Soldiers from B Company, 9th Engineer Battalion usually recover water, food, fuel and other classes of supplies from the drop zone, but this delivery, Nov. 23, was unlike all others and was the first of its kind in the history of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Today we air dropped a 16-foot platform carrying an all-terrain forklift. It is one of six platforms ever dropped in theater," said 1st Lt. Chelsea Craig, the 11th Quartermaster Detachment commander. "It is the first forklift dropped in theater and weighing in excess of 15,000 pounds, it is the heaviest platform ever dropped."
As the C-130 Hercules aircraft flew overhead, the back hatch opened and the crew pushed the platform carrying the historic load from the plane.
Within seconds, three parachutes opened and the platform descended onto the drop zone. Upon landing, the platform made a loud cracking noise as it came in contact with the earth's surface.
"Uh oh. That didn't sound good," said Maj. Michael Laporte, the 172nd Infantry Brigade support operations officer, as he watched from a tower overlooking the drop zone.
Once on the ground, engineer Soldiers ran over and inspected the new piece of equipment. Although the packing material encasing the equipment broke during landing, the forklift remained intact.
Every shadow of doubt about the operation's success disappeared when the Soldiers were able to start up the forklift and use it to load boxes onto the trucks.
"It went excellent," said Laporte. "When it came out, it didn't look good, but we pulled off the drop and they were able to pick up kicker boxes using the forklift."
The company's material handling equipment contract expired Nov. 19, so the forklift was necessary to help complete tasks they conduct around FOB Curry on a daily basis.
"Our daily [combat outpost] sustainment tasks include picking up supplies from the [helicopter landing zone], recovering container delivery system drops and also moving equipment around the COP," said 1st Lt. Timothy Smith, executive officer for B Company, 9th En. Bn.
Although the load made history as the first forklift and heaviest load ever air dropped in theater, it is the added capabilities the forklift brings that made the drop worthwhile.
"It will now take the unit half the time to recover bundles that come in, which means they will spend less time on the drop zone and more time out of harm's way," Laporte said.