AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar –
Airdrop systems technicians, better known as “riggers,” from the U.S. Army Reserve's 824th Quartermaster Company, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., along with members of the United States Air Force, the Italian Army, and some U.S. contractors, are working side-by-side with the Qatar military to enhance that nation’s air drop capabilities so they can provide additional support to their own military.
“The Qataris are standing up their C-17 program, specifically their C-17 air drop program,” said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Sanders, a member of the 824th Quartermaster Company, Detachment 11. “We were asked to advise and assist them as they did that.”
Sanders said this exercise started a few months ago when his detachment was asked to provide support to the Qatar military and advise them on parachute rigging techniques. Once the planning and U.S. personnel needed to advise the various aspects of the air drop were in place, they immediately went to work with the Qatar military.
“The first week, our guys were going to the Qatari’s rigger shop and we were demonstrating how to build bundles; just giving them an overview,” Sanders said. “We’ve given them advice on the details of how we do things and why we do things. For example, the different types of parachutes we use; low velocity parachutes for this type of bundle and high velocity parachutes for another type of bundle. Just for their knowledge because they are brand new.”
Once the Qatari riggers were familiar with the new techniques, they requested to watch how Sanders and his team worked to see what other methods they could use, he said. The two rigging shops on Al Udeid are built differently and provide different ways to set up the materials needed for rigging, so the Qatar military wanted to see the difference in methods used.
“The Qatari riggers came over, watched us rig and helped us rig the bundles to get them training and proficiency,” said CW2 Shane Hicks, the commander of the 824th. “My guys joint inspected the load and helped them push it on the aircraft to get it ready to go.”
Over the course of the four-week exercise, Sanders said the two militaries worked together and built training bundles using 55-gallon drums, which are normally used for fuel but for this exercise, they filled them with water. They built approximately 125 bundles throughout the month and used 60 of those bundles during their culmination air drop for the Qatar Minister of Defense.
“We conducted the Qataris end mission training event with a culmination of 40 bundles from a C-17 and 20 bundles from 2 C-130 aircraft,” Hicks said.
The end training event, which was originally designed to simply drop the bundles, turned into a capabilities demonstration to present to the Qatar Minister of Defense and other high-level personnel of the Qatar military.
The presentation, held May 10, showed off Qatar’s full air defense capabilities with various aircraft to include the C-17 and C-130 bundle drops, some ground forces maneuvering, a ‘fake’ casualty evacuation and a fighter jet escort.
“From a planning perspective, it’s been a great time,” Sanders said. “All the parties involved, from the C-17 program civilians to the Air Force both locally here at AUAB and the guys that came from the States to the Qatari Air Force and Army; everybody has been working hand in hand.”
With the success of the mission, Hicks stated that the Qatari military can have increased confidence in their abilities.
“I think it was a successful airdrop,” he said. “There were no malfunctions in any parachutes, and all the commodities would have arrived on the ground safely to support the warfighter.”
Sanders and Hicks both stated that the experience was a great one for their soldiers as well. They were happy to see their soldiers integrate in with the Qatar military and enhance their techniques as riggers.
“It’s been great nation building and partner building,” Sanders said. “The big exercise is over so now they can move into a more sustainable, mission-type focus for the Qataris. This has been a multinational coalition of partnership, all growing and building and sharing air drop techniques.”