Afghan Food Drop Underscores Bush's Humanitarian Pledge
By Master Sgt. Randy Mitchell
Special to American Forces Press Service
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, Oct. 9, 2001 The two U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transports that delivered about 35,000 Humanitarian Daily Rations over Afghanistan early Oct. 8 marked the first U.S. military airdrop of relief aid to the region and the first operational use of a new airdrop system.
The mission, which originated here, was flown under combat conditions from a higher altitude than ever before, making for a "very dangerous mission," said Col. Bob Allardice, overall mission commander, at an afternoon press conference here once the C-17s touched down.
"This airdrop mission was the first installment of President Bush's $320 million aid package for the people of Afghanistan," Allardice told about 50 reporters braving a steady rain.
The C-17s parked in front of the press conference area, and the jubilant crews congratulated each other as they exited the aircraft. The aircrews flew more than 6,500 miles round trip and refueled multiple times during the 22-hour mission to drop the food rations over eastern and northern Afghanistan. Their airdrop came hours after the U.S. and allied forces bombed terrorist targets inside the country.
Due to operational security concerns, the airborne mission commander could not be identified, but he did speak to the assembled media about the rigors involved with the mission.
"This mission required intensive planning, preparation and coordination," he said. "The success of a demanding and dangerous mission like this is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of our crews and the people who support them."
Approaching the drop zone, the crews depressurized the planes and opened the rear cargo doors, according to Allardice. At the precise time, the pilots raised the aircraft nose slightly, allowing the loadmasters to slide specially constructed containers out the back.
The containers, called TRIAD for Tri-Wall Air Delivery System, were tied to a static line that tightened and flipped the containers over once they were clear of the aircraft. The 410 food packets in each box then spilled free and dispersed over the drop zone.
"We determined our drop zones taking into account where the people who needed the aid are located, potential threats in the area, and existing wind conditions to maximize accuracy to the best of our ability," Allardice said. "Our goal was to get the aid to the right people, without putting them at undue risk."
Each of the 2,200 calorie ready-to-eat food rations provides an entire day's nutritional requirement for one person. Each packet contains two main vegetarian meals based heavily on lentils, beans and/or rice. It also has complementary items such as bread, a fruit bar, a fortified biscuit, peanut butter and spices.
"One meal provides enough nutrition for an entire day for one person, but needs to be supplemented with liquids," said dietitian Capt. Dana Whelan of the 86th Medical Group here. "The meals are a good source of protein, fortified with vitamins and minerals and are appropriate for someone in a poor state of nutrition."
(Master Sgt. Randy Mitchell is assigned to the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs Office, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.)