MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- “There are no IEDs in the sky.” That’s enough justification for Sgt. Milford Anthony, an airborne delivery specialist with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, to keep up his proficiency in delivering supplies from the air.
On March 13, Marines with the air delivery attachment, Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th MEU, conducted a training exercise to certify their team’s ability to conduct air delivery operations before they deploy later this month. During the training, the team loaded and dropped Container Delivery Systems (CDS) using MV-22 Ospreys and a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters into Landing Zone Falcon aboard the base. The containers are used to drop a variety of supplies into areas that are either inaccessible by vehicle or where it would be safer and more efficient to deliver by air. The day’s success hinged on the Marines’ ability to perform realistic air delivery operations. Air delivery specialists assembled the CDSs, loaded them onto the aircraft, and performed the necessary inspections, just as they would if conducting an actual mission while deployed. Prior to delivering the goods though, most of the work is done before they even leave the ground. “The loads get inspected twice by two different inspectors. Once before it goes inside the aircraft, once when it’s inside the aircraft, and (then) the parachute gets inspected by a parachute inspector,” said Anthony, a native of Kaneohe, Hawaii. Once everything is properly inspected the Marines took flight and headed to the drop zone. This training could be a key link for the 24th MEU once they deploy. As a crises response force deployed on amphibious assault ships, the Marines may be required to go ashore somewhere where ground resupply is not an option, for a variety of reasons, not just safety. According to Marine Corps Order 3500.20B, “air delivery units are the Marine Corps’ expeditionary arm for rapid resupply of Marine Forces.” “If we were going to deliver four pallets by convoy 200 miles inland, that’s a major operation for the MEU… and you are putting a lot more Marines on the road and that risk could potentially lead to a combat situation,” said Maj. William Horton, operations officer for CLB 24. Marines can implement these operations in a wide range of scenarios such as providing food and water during humanitarian assistance missions or medical supplies and ammunition during combat operations, he said. “When we deploy, we plan on using this as one of our primary means to resupply units... it’s quicker, it’s safer, because we don’t have to worry about putting trucks on the road or personnel that don’t need to be ashore,” he said. With the uncertainty of where a MEU could end up this type of operation is something the 24th MEU wants to make sure it’s ready for. “A CH-53 Super Stallion and MV-22 Osprey can travel a lot farther and lot faster than vehicles on the ground and deliver the same amount of supplies,” added Anthony.