by Air Force Master Sgt. Mary Davis
Citizen airmen from the New York Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing, based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, airdropped critical supplies to Army troops in Afghanistan on Wednesday, June 22.
The Niagara Falls aircrew, flying one of the C-130 Hercules cargo planes assigned to the base, teamed up with another C-130 from the Alaska Air National Guard to drop 20,000 pounds of cargo to soldiers in Oruzgan province.
The airlift of food, fuel, water and ammunition to these forward operating bases in southern Afghanistan meant that soldiers would not have to move supplies by potentially dangerous ground convoys.
Eighty members of the 107th Airlift Wing and two aircraft deployed to Afghanistan on Memorial Day, May 30.
"We delivered about 10 containers per aircraft at about 1,000 pounds per container," said Master Sgt. Timothy Griffin, a C-130 loadmaster from Buffalo, and a member of the 107th Airlift Wing.
Griffin worked with the Army riggers at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to prepare cargo pallets for the drop using the Improved Container Delivery System.
There is an inherent amount of risk when flying during the daytime, that is doubled when flying more than one aircraft to the drop area, said Lt. Col. Chris Thurn, C-130 pilot with the 107th and the mission commander.
"These types of missions are typically flown at night," the East Amherst resident said. "The second aircraft had to perform fluid travel maneuvers from the 3 to 9 o'clock positions to mitigate threats and keep from becoming predictable."
Exercises and training is a huge aspect of Thurn's work back at his home station. This helped his team perform flawlessly during the airdrop.
"As an instructor pilot and evaluator pilot, I put a lot of emphasis on training to make sure we are prepared," he said. "It's the long-term effects of what we do on a daily basis that makes a difference. If I can help those on the ground, I'm proud to do this."
Airmen from the 107th and the U.S. Air Force's 914th Airlift Wing trained with soldiers at Fort Drum on the proper way to conduct an airdrop to prepare for this deployment.
Despite having aircrews from two separate Air National Guard units, they had one mission in mind - getting supplies downrange to combat forces on the ground.
"The system enables accuracy by adjusting to wind data, terrain and other vital information affecting the airdrop," said Capt. Tom Bradford, an active-duty C-130 navigator from the 39th Airlift Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. "The ICDS collects data so aircraft speed and altitude can be adjusted."
Bradford provided his airdrop expertise to ANG aircrews and served as an extra set of eyes on the flight. He also operates as continuity between ANG units completing 90-day rotations in theater demonstrating the Total Force concept; i.e. the active Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve operating together.
"It's challenging to work with different aircrews, but one benefit is learning how people do things differently," said the Eighty Four, Pa., native. "I've been deployed to this area twice, so I advise them about various aspects of the drop zones."
Lt. Col. Rich Adams from Anchorage, Alaska, the commander of the 774th Air Expeditionary Squadron, the unit the 107th Airlift Wing crews are assigned to in Afghanistan, echoed Thurn's sentiments.
"We take pride in doing this, because it keeps people from having to drive in convoys. Airdropping supplies, keeps people out of harm's way and keeps war fighters in the fight," he said.