Photo Information

A heavy equipment platform is launched out the back of a KC-130J belonging to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 during cargo drop training over Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Aug. 12. The three-ton heavy cargo was dropped from more than 1,200 ft above ground level during the training.

Photo by Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

‘Raiders’ train to resupply troops with aerial delivery

12 Aug 2009 | Cpl. Christopher A. O'Quin

 How do you get Marines entrenched deep in a mountain range the vital supplies they need to carry on the fight?Aerial delivery. 

When the surrounding terrain proves too dangerous and unforgiving for the delivery of necessary supplies, the Marines on the ground can look to the sky.

Aircrew from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 worked with Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group at Yuma, Ariz., to perform aerial delivery training Aug. 11 through 13.

The squadron, also known as the “Raiders,” practiced loading and delivering training cargo containers to the Marines preparing to deploy to Afghanistan.

“Aerial delivery of cargo is a key element of logistic support,” said Maj. Peter J. Munson, a pilot with the Raiders. “When delivering the cargo by air, the Marines can avoid transporting gear on hazardous roads laden with improvised explosive devices. It can be a lot quicker, saving time and lives.”

The squadron flies the KC-130J, which has more than 2,000 square feet of storage space and can operate within a 500-nautical mile radius to deliver anything from F/A-18 jet engines to blood.

“While I was in Iraq, we sent mission-essential supplies to the Syrian border in less than 24 hours,” said Cpl. Milford W. Anthony, an air drop load inspector with CLB-1. “We sent food, ammunition and maintenance parts. There was no other way to get it out there safely in that amount of time.”

During training, the loadmasters secured the cargo with straps and chains. Instead of dropping supplies, the squadron dropped 7-ton truck tires and sand bags packed into four container delivery systems and one heavy equipment platform. An air drop load inspector with CLB-1 then inspected the work of the loadmasters before take off and signed the required paperwork.

The loadmasters fastened the cargo’s parachute to a static line and hooked the static line to an anchor suspended from the front of the cargo bay to the rear. When the pilots flew above the drop zone, the loadmasters and crew chiefs prepared the containers for ejection. Marines on the ground communicated with the air crew to coordinate the cargo drop.

The Marines on the ground used orange panels in the shape of a “T” to mark the impact point and guide the pilots. As the pilots tilted the aircraft nose up by five degrees, the loadmasters cut the straps releasing the cargo and gravity did the rest. As the cargo left the rear of the aircraft, the static line pulled the parachute for safe deployment.

“These types of training events are few and far between with us,” said Cpl. Brandon Rowe, a loadmaster with the squadron. “We’d love to do them more often, but scheduling conflicts sometimes keep us doing this maybe once a month. When we’re deployed, we do this almost weekly.”

Loadmasters are responsible for all cargo transported and spend much of their time checking and inspecting the gear in the rear of the aircraft. Loadmasters also assist crew chiefs with monitoring the aircraft systems.

“On air drops loadmasters call the shots,” said Rowe. “If something doesn’t look right we’ll tell the pilots to call off the drop. We are in charge of making sure the platforms get out of the aircraft safely to the Marines on the ground.”

The Raiders rotate personnel out of Afghanistan on a bi-annual basis. The squadron will continue supporting deployed Marines and providing the supplies when it absolutely, positively needs to get dropped in overnight.