CPT Jordan S. Chroman
Quartermaster Professional Bulletin – Spring 1997
Two C-130s circle the sparkling Mediterranean Sea in lazy arcs, the Italian sky is cloudless, all seems calm and peaceful in this sleepy part of Sicily…suddenly the aircraft ramps open and a small object plummets toward the deep water. It is a rubber assault boat which is quickly slowed by low velocity parachutes. Now the sky fills with paratroopers, their olive parachutes open over the blue sea as small Navy boats start tracking the descending troopers.
The place–Sicily, Italy–the mission–a joint aerial delivery, para-drop and waterborne exercise between the 5th Quartermaster Detachment (Airdrop Supply) from Kaiserslautern, Germany, the 37th Air Lift Wing from Ramstein, Germany, and the Navy’s Detachment 6, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobil Unit 8 (EODMU 8), stationed at Sigenella Naval Air Station, Italy. This was the first time that personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force assembled at Sigenella to conduct a truly joint waterborne rigging mission.
5th Quartermaster Detachment
Riggers and soldiers from the 5th Quartermaster Detachment deployed from Ramstein Air Force Base aboard aircraft from the 37th Air Lift Squadron, United States Air Forces in Europe. Once in Italy, about half the soldiers on board conducted an “airborne assault” onto one of the local land drop zones just outside of Sigenella. Navy Jumpmasters from EODMU 8 operated the drop zone. The remaining soldiers air-landed with assorted air items, parachutes, and a lot of “hooah.” They were met by sailors from EODMU 8 who assisted with the off-loading of parachutes and equipment. The joint para-drop operations had begun.
Riggers and sailors rigged the assault boats and door bundles, and inspected parachutes. Then they conducted joint briefings in waterborne, air drop, and water jump operations followed by an extensive train-up period and mission brief.
Early the next morning Army and Navy paratroopers issued parachutes, conducted the final briefings, and completed last-minute preparations for the operation. Army and Navy Jumpmasters along with Air Force Loadmasters inspected the aircraft, and the Jumpmasters completed the Jumpmaster Personnel Inspections. The paratroopers then boarded the aircraft and prepared to make the water jump while other soldiers and sailors began the trek to set up the water drop zone and work as the drop zone safety party.
After a two-hour flight, the aircraft circled the drop zone, a deep-water section of the Mediterranean Sea about three miles offshore. The assault boat and door bundles were dropped first, quickly followed by several sticks of paratroopers. The drop zone safety party in rubber boats and Boston Whalers (small hard-sided boats) ensured jumper safety and close control of the water drop zone.
After their descent, the paratroopers landed in the water, derigged the assault boat, secured the door bundles, and were picked up by the drop zone safety party in the small boats. While on the water, all the personnel, boats and equipment linked up and completed the airborne and waterborne portions of the mission.
Once the mission was complete, the soldiers and sailors returned to shore, hung parachutes to dry, recovered and cleaned all equipment, and conducted an in-depth after action review of the operation. All personnel then returned to Sigenella Naval Air Station for the evening. The mission ended with additional joint training sessions between Army and Navy personnel.
The three-day operation was very successful. It was an excellent training opportunity, with a truly joint twist, that was beneficial to all. All missions were accomplished and the participating soldiers, sailors and airmen were very happy with the exchange. Some important lessons were learned as a result of this operation:
- Regardless of the amount of prior planning between services, there will always be some discrepancies on “doing business.”
- Personnel para-drop procedures differ between the Army and the Navy. Jumpmasters must discuss and rehearse all aspects of airborne operations before the Jumpmaster Briefings in order to instill confidence in paratroopers from all services.
- Field manuals and technical manuals differ from service to service (even when they apply to the same topic). Leaders must ensure that more time is built into timelines to allow for discussions of tactical and/or technical differences.
This exercise was yet another example of military personnel from various services working well with each other, with pride or “hooah,” and with the spirit of teamwork enabling them to accomplish any mission assigned. Exercises such as this are of great value to our Quartermaster leaders and soldiers. They build trust and confidence in our sister services and allow soldiers to see beyond the Army – into the joint arena.
CPT Jordan S. Chroman is a Distinguished Military Graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. His military education includes the Quartermaster Basic and Advanced Courses, Airborne School, Jumpmaster School, the Aerial Delivery and Materiel Officer Course, the Joint Airdrop Inspectors Course, Pathfinder School and Combined Arms and Service Staff School. He has served in various leadership positions in the 3d Battalion, 12th Special Forces Group (Airborne), E Company; 407th Supply and Transport Battalion, 82d Airborne Division; and as the Commander of the 5th Quartermaster Detachment (Airborne Support), Germany. At the time this article was published he was a student in the Logistics Executive Development Course/Florida Institute of Technology, Fort Lee, Virginia