HomeNewsArticle Display

Drop it like its art

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Vernon Butler, 86th AW command chief, observes a heavy training platform designed by Senior Airman Sarah Hathaway, 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 4, 2011. The platform will be used to assist in training the 37th Airlift Squadron with heavy equipment airdrops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kendra Alba)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Vernon Butler, 86th AW command chief, observes a heavy training platform designed by Senior Airman Sarah Hathaway, 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 4, 2011. The platform will be used to assist in training the 37th Airlift Squadron with heavy equipment airdrops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kendra Alba)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, signs a commemorative heavy training platform designed by Senior Airman Sarah Hathaway, 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 4, 2011. The platform will be used to assist in training the 37th Airlift Squadron with heavy equipment airdrops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kendra Alba)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon, 86th Airlift Wing commander, signs a commemorative heavy training platform designed by Senior Airman Sarah Hathaway, 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, April 4, 2011. The platform will be used to assist in training the 37th Airlift Squadron with heavy equipment airdrops. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kendra Alba)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- When most people hear the word "art," they imagine a canvas hanging on a wall in a museum. Senior Airman Sarah Hathaway's art is displayed in a different manner -- falling from 800 feet in the air.

As part of the 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron aerial delivery section, Airman Hathaway and her fellow parachute riggers are responsible for supporting the 37th Airlift Squadron's airdrop training requirements.

"When people think of parachute riggers, they usually think of life support," said Master Sgt. Travis Owen, NCO in charge Air Transportation. "However, aerial delivery is part of the air transportation career field, which includes packing and rigging parachutes to cargo for airdrop."

But it would be no fun to just rig any old cargo for this important task, so Airman Hathaway took to jazzing up the job. She paints the heavy training platforms that are dropped out of the back of the 37th Airlift Squadron's C-130J Super Hercules to simulate real-world cargo airdrops for downrange missions.

"I painted my first one three years ago," said Airman Hathaway, 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron rigger. "We did one for fun one day, then we did another one to try to compete with the first one ... it took off and the whole shop started coming up with different ideas, so we just kept painting them."

According to Sergeant Owen, what started out as graffiti, where the Airmen would leave their "mark," shaped into a more professional image and became something the Airmen could take pride in.

The most recent heavy platform was painted as a dedication to the 86th Airlift Wing -- all 29 squadron and six group patches painted on it.

"Two years ago we made one designated to the 435th Air Base Wing and now that we changed to the 86th, we wanted to paint one designated to the new wing," said Airman Hathaway.

General Dillon and Chief Master Sgt. Vernon Butler, 86th AW command chief, went to the aerial delivery shop Apr. 4 to see the new platform -- where General Dillon left his mark by signing it.

"This is awesome," said General Dillon. "When are we dropping it?"

The general's enthusiasm for the platform is shared among the Airmen.

"Everyone gets excited about painting the platforms," said Airman Hathaway. "We all come up with the ideas; it's a shop effort."

To some it may be considered art, but to Airmen of the aerial delivery section it's an opportunity to showcase their abilities.

"I can tell you that these Airmen are very proud of their jobs as an Air Force rigger," said Sergeant Owen. "They take every opportunity to show their pride in what they do every day."

There are currently 14 platforms rigged and ready to drop in a first in-first out rotation. On average, the aerial delivery section rigs and drops approximately eight platforms weekly.