CPT Jordan S. Chroman
Quartermaster Professional Bulletin – Summer 1993
A 14-year-old boy brings his family 30 pounds of food in the Muslim enclave of Gorazde in eastern Bosnia. Food is scarce since fighting between Serb militias and Muslim rebels broke out 25 Jun 91, when Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia. Serbian forces block United Nations convoys carrying food and medicine to Muslim enclaves. Where did this boy’s supplies come from? How are people getting food and supplies in this time of civil war?
Needed items were delivered by air, courtesy of the U.S. Army, Air Force and other United Nations Forces as part of Operation Provide Promise.
Operation Provide Promise, truly a combined services operation, is a clear-cut example of the U.S. and other forces working together with ingenuity to achieve a common goal. The U.S. European Command (USEUCOM); the Commander in Chief, U.S. Army Europe (CINCUSAREUR); and the U.S. Air Force Europe (USAFE) took the lead. Members of the 5th Quartermaster Detachment (Army), the 29th Area Support Group (Army), the 21st Theater Area Army Command (Army), the 435th Air Wing (USAF), the 37th Aerial Port Squadron (USAF) and other U.S. units participated in the relief effort. Additional rigger and air force units from Germany, Great Britain and France aided in the operation. Riggers and air crews worked around the clock for weeks at a time with little rest to ensure success. Without the combined efforts of riggers, loadmasters, aerial port personnel, pilots and other support personnel, this mission could never have been successful. The study of this and other airdrop missions teaches junior logisticians many lessons necessary in supplying and transporting today’s rapidly deployable military. Aerial delivery operations are ideal for both military missions and civilian relief actions. Airdrop allows delivery of supplies and equipment in an entirely different way than any other transportation system. All logisticians should be familiar with aerial delivery and its capabilities.
As a rigger officer from the 82d Airborne Division, I have seen firsthand how aerial resupply benefited troops on the ground. As I read articles in newspapers, I became curious about this aerial resupply mission. As I often do, I turned to history as my teacher and guide. During Operation Provide Comfort. which supplied food to many nationals in Iraq and Turkey, we saw resupply to these civilians. However, this operation differed because we were delivering supplies to a nation during a civil war, a war in which we were not militarily involved.
Operation Provide Promise officially started 1 Mar 93 when U.S. Air Force C130 Hercules transport airplanes from Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany dropped supplies to Cerska, March 2 to Zepa, and March 3 and 4 to Konjevici. On March 1, 27 bundles of food and 3 bundles of medical supplies were dropped. By the 11th day of the operation, over 384 short tons of supplies had been delivered. As of 12 May 93, over 3,360 short tons of supplies (5,274 bundles) were dropped by United Nations Forces. One hundred aerial delivery containers were being dropped daily, with no projected end date.
Normal military Container Delivery System (CDS) bundles include everything from Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), potable water, repair parts, medical supplies, and whole blood. Many nonstandard loads were needed. This posed only temporary problems for the innovative riggers. In addition to the standard food and medicine, sugar, cooking oil and personal comfort items were supplied through CDS. With this system, just about any commodity can be airdropped.
There was some concern about the accuracy of the CDS bundles hitting their targets during the initial days of Operation Provide Promise. The air force navigator computes factors such as weather, surface wind, flying speed and altitude to determine a Computed Air Release Point (CARP) or, for high altitude drops, a High Altitude Release Point (HARP). After computing his CARP or HARP, the navigator signals the loadmasters when to release the loads over the drop zone. On 1 Mar 93, all CDS bundles were dropped at 10,000 feet and fell within 40 to 540 meters of the desired impact point (confirmed).
The basic components of the CDS bundle are an A-22 canvas cargo bag with scuff pad and webbing, a cargo parachute (either a G-12D or G-12E for low velocity airdrop or a 26 foot ring slot for high velocity airdrop), a plywood skidboard, several layers of shock-absorbing, paper-board honeycomb, and the actual logistical load for airdrop. The entire bundle, including the accompanying load, must weigh between 501 and 2,200 pounds. The bundle must not exceed 83 inches in height.
The CDS bundle is dropped by one of two types of airdrop: high velocity (dropped at an altitude of up to 10,000 feet, with a descending rate of approximately 60 to 90 feet per second) or low velocity (dropped as low as 600 feet, with a rate of descent of approximately 23 to 30 feet per second). Because of security and the turbulent nature of the fighting in Bosnia, high velocity was the preferred method.
The primary drops were high velocity CDS bundles delivered by the U.S. However, every country brought a “twist” to the effort of aerial resupply. The Germans, who arrived at Rhein-Main 15 March, brought four C160 Tranal aircraft and 10 riggers. The U.S., Turkey, Great Britain, Norway and other countries and worldwide relief organizations donated food, medical supplies, and personal items for the drops. Airdrop equipment, parachutes and other necessary items such as A-22 containers were cross-leveled from all over the European Theater so the riggers at Rhein-Main would have enough supplies to continue their rigging mission. New contracts with civilian suppliers for airdrop equipment and expendable items were initiated.
Telephone, FAX and written communications were constant within the rigger and loadmaster communities. Because of the civilian-oriented nature of many of the supplies dropped, quite a few loads did not meet normal military standards. Natick Research, Development and Engineering Center (Airdrop Systems Division) granted special waivers for these loads.
Since World War II the CDS has been an incredibly versatile means of resupply. CDS has been used in every war, military action and many humanitarian operations since its inception in the 1940s. Now, as the U.S. military shrinks in size, we must rely more and more on innovative and flexible means of accomplishing a goal. CDS is now and will continue to be one of the ultimate means of resupply.
As a logistician, get to know the capabilities of aerial delivery. If you need to get ammunition to soldiers on the battlefield, bales of concertina wire to a mountain outpost, or send needed commodities to civilians thousands of miles from your location, look to aerial delivery as your transportation choice.
CPT Jordan S. Chroman is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in mass communications. He is also a graduate of Quartermaster Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, Airborne and Jumpmaster Schools, and the Aerial Delivery Materiel Officers Course. He was previously assigned to Hamilton Army Air Field, California, where he served as Team Member/Executive Officer, 3d Battalion, 12th Special Forces Group (A), U.S. Army Reserve. In addition to his Reserve duty, he served as Aerial Delivery Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, Assistant Battalion S3, and Commander (Forward), E Company, 407th Supply and Transportation Battalion, 82d Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.