Oh ‘chute! 352d SOSS Aerial Delivery trains 67th SOS aircrew drops
By Senior Airman Christine Halan, 352d Special Operations Wing
/ Published March 01, 2017
RAF MILDENHALL, England --
As cord upon cord gets sensibly untangled before being stretched and flattened, the large, billowing canopy is partially inflated to rid it of moisture. A two- to three-man team then folds the parachute before carefully placing it back into its bag, ready for its next use in dropping vital cargo supplies around the world.
Air commandos from the 352d Special Operations Support Squadron Aerial Delivery shop take care of the parachutes used when pushing life-saving cargo from the rear of an aircraft. Their efforts ensure aircrew members of the 67th Special Operations Squadron are proficient on aerial delivery drops and ready to support real world operations around the world at any time.
“We pack a variety of parachutes, including 28-feet, 26-feet and 15-feet chutes, 68-inch pilot parachutes (small, auxiliary parachute used to deploy the main or reserve), and G-12 Army parachutes, along with drogues and sandbags,” said Staff Sgt. Jarryd Dooley, 352nd SOSS Aerial Delivery rigger.
“When we’re using the smaller chutes for high velocity drops, the wind can catch them and rip a panel out or rip a hole through them. But we have the capability to sew the parachutes ourselves, so anytime there is a hole, tear or friction burn, we’ll do an on-the-spot repair. Our overall goal is to pack the chute and make sure everything is safe.” explained Dooley.
The special duty is made up of three Air Force specialties: loadmasters, aircrew flight equipment and air transportation.
“Working with other [career fields] is great because we get to learn about what they do and remove any preconceived notions,” said Master Sgt. Jeffery Hunter, 352d SOSS Aerial Delivery flight chief. “Others bring qualities that we don’t have and vice versa. In the end you come together with your strengths and get the mission done.”
They also have their own wood shop to build up platforms on which the cargo is strapped, prior to being fitted with parachutes it takes approximately 13.5 hours to create a platform from start to finish.
Platforms are typically for training. Plastic barrels full of water, metal containers and other such items are used to create balance weight to practice aerial drops. In a real-world scenario almost anything can be dropped, including water, MRE’s and medicine, jet skis, motorcycles and more.
“It’s a change of pace from my regular career field, and I like the fact that we have a unique mission here,” said SSgt Brian Demik, 352d Special Operations Support Squadron Aerial Delivery rigger.
“Seeing the 67th SOS aircrew perform operations and hitting the target when they drop their cargo is a great feeling – it means we’re doing our job right and the training we provide to them is working,” Dooley remarked.
Not only do they perform the everyday duties of creating and packing platforms and parachutes, aerial delivery Airmen also control airspace and clear loads to drop from the sky during aerial delivery operations.
“We speak directly with the pilots on board the aircraft and make sure they’re clear to perform the drop. Normally that’s a combat controller’s job, but we fill that role in a training environment,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Demik, 352d SOSS Aerial Delivery rigger. “Only about two percent of my entire career field gets to do this.”
With limited resources in other areas around the world, the aerial delivery team often works alongside partner nations’ air forces while TDY, to synchronize training efforts and build future partnership efforts.
“Here we don’t really see the mission as it’s happening, but when we go to other countries, to rig and inspect their equipment, that’s when we have the opportunity to see more first hand,” Demik said. “For instance, when we went to Greece we controlled the drop zone for their personnel. We dropped a lot of their equipment out of our planes, and I inspected it. I actually got to sit on the plane and see that equipment go out the back of the cargo door.”
By packing and sewing parachutes to loading platforms with necessary equipment for aircrew, aerial Delivery Air Commandos are essential to accomplishing special operations missions and giving our Airmen the agility to effectively respond to future global conflicts.