Geographically Separated Units Airdrop Supplies to Advisory Troops

Flying over the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, two C-130J Hercules aircraft airdropped more than 30 container delivery system bundles to troops serving in a Resolute Support Mission expeditionary advisory package, May 4.

Unlike previous combat airdrop missions, this dual-formation airdrop was executed by two geographically separated units: the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, an active-duty squadron located at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, an Air Force Reserve squadron located at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

“The uniqueness about this mission is that it’s two separate units, stationed in two separate countries, coming together for a single airdrop, which to my knowledge has never been done before in combat in this country,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Bret Echard, commander of the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.

Complicated Planning

Echard pointed out that mission planning for a combat dual-formation airdrop, in hostile territory, isn’t easy when a unit is together, let alone when the second aircraft comes from a geographically separated unit.

“For any large or small operation, especially in a mountainous terrain environment like Afghanistan, communication is key and must start at the basic level of planning,” Echard said. “It has to start early and it has to be often because the smallest contingencies that pop up, and they will pop up in Afghanistan, require a solid plan from the get-go, which starts with a basic level of communication.”

The squadrons trained together for this type of mission while participating in Green Flag Little Rock, an Air Mobility Command exercise held last October at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.

“It’s very unique to build a relationship … in a controlled training environment back home and then bring those capabilities to the warfighter out here and actually execute the mission together,” Echard said. “Those relationships, which are key to anything we do over here, were built months ago and now we are lucky enough to execute them in combat.”

The units’ mission included providing logistical support to a Resolute Support Mission expeditionary advisory package.

“[The] C-130s delivered enough supplies to sustain the ground forces supporting the Expeditionary Advisory Package for another week,” Echard said. “[This was] a tactical mission that impacts the bigger plan, at the strategic level in this country.”

Expeditionary advisory packages provide tailored support to regional Afghan commands for both enduring and emergent capability gaps.

“Our role in that is to sustain them [expeditionary advisory package troops],” Echard said. “To airlift whatever the ground forces commander requires for mission success and deliver those requirements anywhere in Afghanistan.”

‘Fantastic Mission’

This work is why Air Force Col. Jennie Johnson, deputy director of mobility forces and a 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron C-130J Hercules pilot, puts on a uniform every day.

“Being able to help the advisors who are training the Afghans so they can secure their own country is a huge win for our airmen,” Johnson said. “This is a fantastic mission to be able to support and they’re thrilled to be here and doing it.”

Established in 2015, the Resolute Support Mission is a NATO-led, non-combat mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces, who assumed nationwide responsibility for Afghanistan’s security following the conclusion of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission. Its purpose is to help Afghan forces and institutions develop the capacity to defend Afghanistan and protect its citizens in a sustainable manner.