Riggers Prepare Supplies for Afghans in Need
By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Rautio, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Apr. 10, 2006 For the neediest citizens of this mountainous country, humanitarian and relief supplies often arrive in bundles attached to parachutes and dropped from coalition aircraft to the ground.
Army Spc. John Patrones moves a humanitarian-aid bundle into a warehouse at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The bundle is one of many dropped by coalition forces to needy residents of remote areas in Afghanistan. Patrones, of the 647th Quartermaster Company, is deployed from Fort Campbell, Ky. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Rautio, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Members of the 647th Quartermaster Company, made up of platoons from Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Campbell, Ky., have prepared 82 such bundles - with 45 tons of supplies - since arriving here Feb. 12.
They are known as riggers because of their mission: rigging the bundles to parachutes and preparing them to withstand the exit from an aircraft, the descent, and finally the impact with the ground.
Riggers also are responsible for making sure they have enough supplies to build each bundle. For a winter bundle, that means blankets, shoes, sugar, stoves and coal; for a survival bundle, that means tool and hygiene kits, beans, rice, cooking oil, salt, tarpaulins and more.
Bundles are built on request, based on when the aircraft will be taking off, explained Army Staff Sgt. Raul Mercado, a rigger deployed from Fort Campbell. Each bundle takes about 20 minutes to build.
"A container delivery system, or CDS, is used to prepare the supplies for the airdrop," explained Army Chief Warrant Officer Cortez Frazier.
The supplies are wrapped up with a cargo harness and secured to a skid board. Once a bundle is secure, a parachute is attached to its top.
A regular cargo parachute, 64 feet in diameter, or a high-velocity parachute, 26 feet in diameter, may be used. The type of chute depends on the durability of the supplies and the size of the drop zone, explained Army Sgt. 1st Class Tommie Selmon, also from Fort Campbell.
Before a bundle is loaded onto an aircraft, a member of the aircrew and a member of the rigging team must inspect it. This "joint air inspection" ensures that the bundles have been rigged properly, Mercado said.
Once a bundle is on an aircraft, the crew and the riggers make sure it can exit the aircraft properly, and then they attach its static line to the anchor line cable. A static line pulls out the pilot parachute, which in turn deploys the main chute when the bundle leaves the aircraft, Mercado said.
Once a bundle lands safely on target, coalition troops on the ground break it down and distribute its contents. The parachute and other gear used to drop the supplies will be returned to Bagram to be used on a future mission, Mercado said.
While the riggers of the 647th don't get to see the results of their work, they know they are making a contribution to the rebuilding of Afghanistan, one said.
"It feels real good. I am very confident in everyone doing their job, and everyone is happy to be here," said Army Sgt. Harvey Johnson, from Fort Campbell.
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Rautio is assigned to Joint Logistics Command Public Affairs.)