By Army Sgt. 1st Class Brock Jones
Utah National Guard
SOROTI, Uganda (4/19/11) - Members of the Utah National Guardâ€™s 197th Special Troops Company along with Army parachute riggers are currently in Soroti, Uganda, training with Soldiers from the Ugandan Peopleâ€™s Defense Forces in support of ATLAS DROP 11.
ATLAS DROP, an annual joint aerial-delivery exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Africa, brings together U.S. service members with counterparts from the Ugandan Peopleâ€™s Defense Forces, and is designed to enhance the readiness of both countriesâ€™ resupply and logistical capabilities.
The Guard members and the parachute riggers from the 5th Quartermaster Detachment, 21st Special Troops Battalion, 21st Theater Sustainment Command out of Kaiserslautern, Germany, started the exercise April 11 and are scheduled to complete it April 21.
The training has consisted of classroom instruction and field training exercises.
AD11 will increase the capability of both UPDF and U.S. forces to resupply Soldiers operating in remote areas.
Soldiers, who are known for being outstanding improvisers and for doing their jobs well even under less-than-perfect conditions, are making a mission happen no matter the resources available.
This group of riggers has taken the spirit of improvisation to heart in preparing parachutes for upcoming aerial resupply missions.
During the two-week exercise the riggersâ€™ have been training their Ugandan counterparts on various aerial-delivery systems, more specifically, the low-Cost, low-Altitude, copter box and free-drop box systems.
The Ugandans also had to devise ways to effectively rig parachutes to the systems and ensure the contents inside remained safe upon landing.
With all the proper equipmentâ€”tables, tension devices, weightsâ€”rigging parachutes is a rigorous task. Prepping chutes in a dusty aircraft hangar in eastern Uganda on old desks and cardboard proved challenging for even the most experienced riggers.
This is where the spirit of improvisation came into play.
Using whatever was there to ensure the successful completion of the mission, the chutes were packed on a makeshift packing table made of old desks with a concrete pillar there to stabilize the desks and act as a tie off to ensure proper tension.
Others used the pillars and cardboard, but in the end all chutes were packed.
â€œBasically, what we had to do today was improvise,â€ said Army Sgt. Roger Montanez, a parachute rigger assigned to the 197th STC.
â€œWe had no packing tables; we had no packing weights, so we had to improvise to accomplish the mission,â€ he said. â€œWe set up cardboard to maintain parachute integrity, so we donâ€™t compromise the parachute in any way.â€
Montanez, who has been rigging parachutes for 11 years, said that regardless of circumstances, a Soldier with a job to do has to get it done.
â€œWe did everything we could to accomplish the mission the proper way, the safe way and the right way with what we have,â€ he said.
In addition, as is the case with all training opportunities, the riggers of AD 11 learned valuable lessons by having to pack parachutes conditions they are not accustomed to.
â€œItâ€™s an experience that betters me as a parachute rigger,â€ said Army Spc. Jordan Parr, a rigger assigned to the 197th STC.
In their first full day together as a team, the 19 riggers of AD11â€”11 Soldiers from Germany, seven from Utah and one from 3rd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, Georgia National Guardâ€”packed 36 T-10 parachutes for use during upcoming LCLA practice drops.
After a day of packing chutes, the riggers began training with their Ugandan Peoples Defense Forces counterparts on how to prepare the aerial delivery systems. These resupply systems provide the UPDF and U.S. Army with the ability to resupply units operating far from usual resupply routes and means.
â€œEveryoneâ€™s absorbing the knowledge really well,â€ said Army Sgt. Aaron DeHaven a rigger assigned to the 5th Quartermaster Det. â€œBut for me personally, training with the UPDF has been very rewarding; Iâ€™ve learned a lot.â€
Whether rigging under the most difficult working conditions or training with UPDF Soldiers, the AD11 riggers have lived up to the motto they learn at rigger school: â€œI will be sure always.â€
After the packing training was completed the next step comes when the cargo is kicked from the open doors of planes and helicopters above drop zones north of Soroti, and the cargo drifts safely to ground, everyone will know just how sure they were.