FORT DRUM To prepare for critical and emergency air drops in war zones, two Air Force C-130 transport planes dropped more than 10,000 pounds of simulated cargo using Fort Drums training drop zones.
The drops Wednesday were part of a joint training mission between the state Air National Guards 174th Fighter Wing, based in Syracuse, and the 30th Aerial Port Air Reserve Base, Niagara Falls.
Air drop simulations help units prepare for drop situations overseas, which are becoming more common in war zones, said Capt. Matthew B. Zahler, air mobility liaison officer with the 621st Contingency Operations Support Group West, Fort Drum.
Were doing more air drops right now than we have in, I think, anytime in the history of air drops over in Afghanistan, he said. A lot of the forward operating bases are getting their resupplies via air drops.
Items such as ammunition, food, water and even vehicle batteries are common supplies found in cargo drops.
Capt. Zahler communicated with two pilots who flew from Niagara Falls to Fort Drum. The planes appeared from behind clouds, dipping to between 300 and 500 feet above the ground. The low altitude levels help the pilots hide among their surroundings when in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is one of those places where you have a lot of forward operation bases that are ground-locked, Capt. Zahler. They cant necessarily get vehicles into these bases, so the only means of resupply they have is by helicopter or by air drop.
When close to their drop targets, the pilots ascend several hundred feet, drop the cargo, then fly away.
Unlike in Afghanistan, each plane had two attempts Wednesday. On the first run, one parachute got tangled on the descent and the cargo sped to the ground. On the second attempt, both drops were within successful range of the target.
The target on post was a bright orange tent-like structure. In a war zone, a target could be made from infrared or white lights, smoke signals or even a letter.
If enemy attack is imminent and communication cannot be made between ground and plane, targets become especially important, said Master Sgt. Todd N. Russell, 30th Aerial Port.
The ability to train at Fort Drum helps his units pilots stay on their toes.
Its a totally different drop zone than what they are used to in Niagara Falls, he said. Its a totally different course so it helps to increase the confidence of the pilots, being outside of a canned training course.
Capt. Zahler said there are a number of military installations near Fort Drum that could be interested in using the training facility.
Weve got to get the word out that we have these drop zones, he said. We just resurveyed the drop zones that we have out here and weve built some additional ones.
He said Fort Drum is working on getting a Joint Precision Airdrop Pad certified. The JPAD would enable service men and women to use global positioning systems, steerable parachutes and an onboard computer to steer loads to a designated target or drop zone.
When established, Fort Drum would be one of three military installations to have JPAD capabilities, along with Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Polk, La.