CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
When coalition forces on the ground can't afford to wait for a convoy or are out of reach for a helicopter resupply, the KC-130J provides the flexibility and capability of making a mass aerial delivery to the front lines.
The Marines of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, Detachment A, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), completes section aerial deliveries to ground forces in Helmand province regularly. A section aerial delivery is comprised of two aircraft making a supply drop.
"Aerial delivery is an essential mission set of the KC-130J,” said Capt. Ben Grant, the operations officer with VMGR-352, Det. A. “Each aircraft delivered an excess of 26,000 pounds of food and water to the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, in southern Helmand province. That's a total of 26 tons in less than an hour's total flight time.”
Aerial delivery is an incredibly dynamic mission that directly supports the ground forces, explained Staff Sgt. Nate Deitsch, a KC-130J Hercules crew chief with the squadron.
For an aerial delivery, bundles are created using thick cardboard pallets and boxes of water, food or ammunition. Parachutes are then attached to the top of the bundles and rigged for automatic deployment as they leave the aircraft during flight.
“We are the only fixed-wing platform organic to the [Marine Air Ground Task Force] that is capable of delivering this amount of essential supplies in a single pass to the Marines on the ground, making us a significant combat multiplier for the MAGTF commander,” said Grant, who is originally from Cincinnati. “In doing so, we can quickly deliver all classes of needed materials to remote outposts on short notice.”
Before the VMGR-352, Det. A, Marines can make this quick delivery, they must prepare the aircraft to properly release the cargo.
In an airdrop mission, special attention must be paid to the aircraft's cargo loading system due to the relatively high danger involved with dropping thousands of pounds of cargo from a moving aircraft, explained Cpl. Joshua Palmer, a loadmaster with VMGR-352, Det. A.
The loadmasters must check each bundle as it is loaded to ensure it is properly secured, and that the parachute is correctly connected to release once it is clear of the ramp. The bundles may be released either manually, by the loadmaster cutting the release gate or automatically by a specially rigged, aircraft controlled, guillotine knife.
During the flight, the loadmaster walks the cargo compartment to check the integrity of each load and prepares the cargo compartment for the actual release, Palmer explained.
“This flight went very well; the bundles exited safely and without flaw, arriving at their intended drop-zone and providing the forces on the ground with supplies,” said Palmer, who is originally from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. “To me, that is what counts. To enable the Marines in remote and often inaccessible positions to safely receive amenities and supplies that many take for granted.”
It took the Marines about two hours, from preparing the aircraft to releasing the bundles, to successfully complete the mission.
“We are a cohesive team that can accomplish any mission - anywhere, any weather, anytime - in support of our Marines on the ground," said Grant.
Through this teamwork, the VMGR-352, Det. A, Marines continually support coalition forces on the front lines and in isolated locations by delivering the supplies they need in the quickest manner possible.