NEW RIVER AIR STATION, N.C. -- A group of highly skilled Marine Corps riggers and jumpmasters trained for the first time with the Air Force's C-17 Globemaster III here Feb. 26.
"Working with the Air Force really keeps us on our toes. They watch over you like a hawk," said Sgt. John W. Laverde, heavy drop section noncommissioned officer in charge.
"On the other hand, the Marine Corps believes in the training we receive and trusts us to do it right and get the job done."
And getting the job done is what Air Delivery Platoon, 2d Transportation Battalion, 2d Force Service Support Group from Camp Lejeune does.
The Marines are responsible for rigging equipment and supplies to safely drop from aircraft to ground units that depend on them. This drops give the troops on the front lines the food, ammunition and medical supplies needed to overcome their opponents.
To prepare for their support role, Air Delivery Plt. Marines loaded two pallets with 3,000-pound platforms on them and strapped them down aboard the Air Force's state-of-the-art cargo plane to be dropped over Tactical Landing Zone Falcon near Onslow Beach.
In addition to securing the load and rigging the chutes, the platoon calculated coordinates using the aircraft's Computer Air Release Points system. The system determines when to automatically release the cargo on target and on time.
Although the C-17 shares the CARP system with the platoon's normal aircraft, the C-130 Hercules, there are also major differences.
"They are two totally different aircraft," said 1st Lt. Patrick J. Reynolds, platoon commander, Air Delivery Plt.
"The C-17 uses a drogue chute to pull the extraction chute out. Every other aircraft I've used didn't need that."
The drogue chute, a type of parachute, is 15 feet in diameter and is released out of the C-17 using the CARP system for correct timing. The drogue chute hangs from the rear of the plane for approximately 15 seconds, then pulls the extraction chute, which unfurls and yanks the cargo out the rear of the plane.
The load goes from sitting motionless on the deck to flying out the rear of the aircraft in a split second.
Laverde said the only challenge was learning to use the drogue chute.
Another big difference for the Air Delivery Plt. was the length of parachute cords needed to clear the back of the aircraft.
"The C-17 uses a longer line for extraction than we are used to. In a C-130 we use a 60-foot cord but the C-17 needs 160 feet to clear the back of the aircraft," said Staff Sgt. William C. Frazier, platoon sergeant, Air Delivery Platoon.
Because of all the differences several members of the platoon went along for the ride so they could see first hand how the whole process works on the C-17 and bring that knowledge back to their fellow Marines.
Though this airdrop was new, training with other services is not unusual for the Air Delivery Plt.
The platoon takes advantage of as many opportunities for joint airborne/ airborne tactical training (JA/ATT) as they can fit in their schedule, explained Reynolds of Bronx, N.Y.
They have to be prepared to rig precious cargo for delivery to troops from any type of aircraft. Also, working with other services helps keep Marines current with the different techniques used by their fellow servicemembers.
According to Laverde, all of the dropped platforms hit the drop zone. The ground troops would have received the supplies if it were a real re-supply operation.