U.S. Sgt. Joshua Stevens, a parachute rigger with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), Task Force Centurion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (Airborne), Task Force Spartan prepares to hook up a sling load to a Russian Mi-8 helicopter at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Jan 3. (U.S. Army Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Morris)
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan (January 3, 2012) — A group of Alaska-based parachute riggers are now rigging everything from fuel to food for delivery to soldiers on the front lines in Afghanistan.
The riggers are part of the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, Task Force Centurion, which recently deployed to eastern Afghanistan. The battalion is led by Lt. Col. Brad Hinson from Jackson, Tenn. and Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Morrison, a native of Crawfordsville, Ind.
Task Force Centurion took charge of the support and sustainment mission for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Spartan in late December. Centurion provides daily support to soldiers in remote forward operating bases and combat outposts.
The sights of the large foreign-manufactured helicopters flying with large cargo bundles suspended beneath them in mid-air would be out of the ordinary over Eagle River. But it’s a requirement to get supplies where they’re needed most in a combat zone.
“This section has already coordinated for the transportation of over 3,000 soldiers and just under one -million pounds of cargo by contracted aviation in less than one month,” said Capt. Adam Jones, transportation officer for Centurion. “Without this air coordination, the maneuver forces would not be able to sustain operations at certain bases.”
The paratroopers of the Task Force Centurion departed Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in December to begin a 10-month deployment to eastern Afghanistan. At home station in Alaska, the riggers support the brigade’s airborne mission by re-rigging the thousands of parachutes that the brigade uses every week for airborne proficiency training. They also keep their skills fresh by rigging entire Humvees and howitzer artillery platforms for what’s known as “aerial delivery.”
While Task Force Spartan’s paratroopers aren’t jumping in Afghanistan, Centurion’s paratroopers still provide the kind of support that the brigade cannot carry out its mission without. Much of that involves the delivery of fuel and other supplies using a mix of military and civilian contracted helicopters, in addition to ground convoys.
Sustaining the force is a team mission; however, some personalities stand out. The BSB’s Support Operations Air Transportation section is at the spearhead of the battalion’s logistical support mission. This section is led by Staff Sgt. Michael Wambsgans. His duties include planning and coordinating with military and civilian contract agencies to bundle, sling load, and fly needed supplies anywhere needed in the brigade’s battle space in east Afghanistan. His superiors give him much of the credit for keeping the section flexible and responsive.
Despite the rough terrain of east Afghanistan, air delivery isn’t the only option. “Last week the 725th pushed out our first convoy over the KG pass from Salerno to Gardez,” said Capt. Eddie Gorbett, the battalion operations officer. The roads of Afghanistan are rough and lack the conveniences of the U.S. interstate system. There were problems to overcome like vehicle breakdowns and flat tires.
“During their convoy they moved over hard ball, dirt, and even river beds to get from one destination to the other. These Soldiers quickly responded to all challenges and ensured all Soldiers made it back safe and tactically,” said Gorbett.
While transitioning with the outgoing 201st BSB from Fort Knox Ky., the 725th BSB diligently worked to learn the battle rhythm the 201st used to ensure the smooth flow of operations over the last year.
“We spent the last several months in Alaska training, and learning what worked and what didn’t work for the units that we are replacing,” said Capt. Chase Spears, public affairs officer for Task Force Spartan. “They have a wealth of knowledge from their last 12 months in theater that has helped us greatly during the transition process.”
The transition of authority ceremony, held on Forward Operating Base Salerno Dec. 31 was a culminating event to the 3,500 paratroopers who call Task Force Spartan their unit. They spent the last 18 months training for this mission in Alaska and the warm August climate of Fort Polk, La.
The mission of TF Spartan is to assist in creating the conditions necessary for a full transition of security and governance responsibilities to the Government of Afghanistan. For its part of that mission, The 725th BSB is observing Afghan National Army operations in order to build trust, learn the ANA logistics system, and identify areas to focus on while mentoring and training the ANA, according to 1st Lt. Courtney Fuller, personnel officer for the battalion.
3,500 paratroopers conducting combat and support missions everyday requires significant resource support. The Brigade Support Battalion provides flexible and responsive logistical support to TF Spartan’s maneuver units arrayed across the area of operations, according to Jones.
“The BSB sustains the brigade by providing its subordinate units with basic necessities including, food, fuel, ammunition and other types of supplies, said Fuller. “The 725th BSB will travel by land and air in order to sustain the troops throughout the brigade’s area of operation.”
The commander of the 725th BSB, Task Force Centurion, Lt. Col. Brad Hinson, summarized the guiding principle that guides all members of his team. “No mission will fail due to Logistics.”