When you wish upon a cargo plane
By Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 04, 2015
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Airmen grasp for the linings of their inner pockets, attempting to shield any exposed skin from the white, chilled needles falling from the colorless, late-November sky.
"Wind just hit three knots; it's looking good," one said to the other with an optimistic smile. "It should be here soon."
Like a well-rehearsed play, a faint growl arose from above the low-hanging clouds. "There it is!"
A military cargo plane emerged and as it passed, parachutes gracefully descended, possibly containing food, water, or clothing--hope to those below.
While this time it was only training bundles that landed for those Airmen, the drop zone at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, Germany, is where the 37th Airlift Squadron goes to practice and inspect airdrop capabilities to ensure the success of real-world missions.
"During the winter we have to fly higher to avoid any obstruction in the air which requires a larger drop zone," said Capt. Eric Liard, 37th AS pilot. "Grafenwoehr is perfect because it has one of the largest drop zones in Germany which gives pilots and loadmasters flexibility to work on our skills year-round."
Conducting airdrops is a way for cargo or paratroopers to drop out of the back of an aircraft and parachute on an area. This eliminates the need for a runway since the aircraft doesn't need to land, which is ideal when a delivery needs to be made in a hostile area.
However, providing this capability requires the 37th AS Airmen to be up-to-date with their certifications which can be challenging due to Germany's flight restrictions.
"We are required to fly higher during our low level operations in Germany compared to the U.S. and other parts of Europe," said Capt. Bryce Johnson, 37th AS pilot. "We are also unable to train during quiet hours which are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., weekends and during holidays. Even though our time in air is limited, we do have another way to stay current with our training."
Ramstein Air Base, Germany holds the only U.S. C-130J Super Hercules simulator located in Europe, allowing the Airmen to practice flying indoors.
"Having this asset is phenomenal for the C-130 community here," Johnson said. "It allows us to do additional training we can't always accomplish in the local area, as well as save fuel and carbon emissions over the lifetime of the simulator."
Taking advantage of these resources allows the 37th AS team an ample opportunity to grow in their skills, as well as help develop neighboring militaries.
"Training like we do gives us the credibility to work with our European allies and build our partner's capacity," Liard said. "By training together we solidify our skills to deliver hope in real time, all the time."
Through sun, rain, snow or sleet, the 37th AS Airmen strive to better themselves and work with their allies to deliver more than just supplies, but hope to those in need around the world.