Fort Bragg-based soldiers aid in humanitarian airdrops in Iraq

U.S. Army parachute riggers with the 11th Quartermaster Company, 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade palletize halal meals for a humanitarian airdrop Aug. 7, 2014, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.


By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: August 10, 2014

Before humanitarian aid reaches Iraqi citizens, it's passing through the hands of Fort Bragg soldiers.

A photograph released early Saturday by U.S. Central Command shows parachute riggers from the 11th Quartermaster Company packing water onto pallets for Wednesday's humanitarian airdrop near Sinjar, Iraq.

The riggers are part of the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade.

The U.S. military has completed at least two airdrops as part of its humanitarian efforts to help displaced Iraqis in the northern part of the country.

The Kurdish-speaking Yazidi refugees are being threatened by the Islamic State group.

The military also is conducting air strikes against the Islamic State.

President Obama said the air strikes - involving U.S. fighter jets and a drone - are meant to prevent genocide and clear the way for the aid, which is aimed at thousands of members of a religious minority trapped on a mountainside near the Syrian border.

"Our humanitarian effort continues to help the men, women and children stranded on Mount Sinjar," Obama said Saturday during an address on the South Lawn of the White House. "American forces have so far conducted two successful airdrops - delivering thousands of meals and gallons of water to these desperate men, women and children. And American aircraft are positioned to strike ISIL terrorists around the mountain to help forces in Iraq break the siege and rescue those who are trapped there."

The photos, released by the U.S. Air Force, show Fort Bragg soldiers and others preparing the humanitarian aid Wednesday and Thursday to be loaded onto C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.

The photos were taken at an unspecified base within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

That area stretches from Egypt to Kazakhstan and includes Kuwait, which has hosted American troops since Desert Storm.

Another Fort Bragg unit, the 1st Theater Sustainment Command, oversees the logistical flow throughout that area.

The 1st TSC has headquarters at Fort Bragg, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

According to the Air Force, the three planes left from two bases within the area of operations Friday, dropping a total of 72 bundles of supplies in less than 15 minutes.

The aid included 5,300 gallons of drinking water and 8,000 meals ready to eat, commonly known as MREs. The meals are halal, meaning they follow Islamic dietary laws.

Fort Bragg officials could not say when members of the 11th Quartermaster Company deployed, and they declined to comment on operations within the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

According to the U.S. Air Force news release, at least 18 riggers from the 11th Quartermaster Company are deployed.

Those riggers can assemble 40 bundles of water for airdrops within two hours, officials said.

"When you need something like this, you need it right now," Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Schwarz, one of the 11th Quartermaster Company soldiers, was quoted as saying Wednesday and Thursday by the Air Force. "Air drop of the aid bundles allows U.S. forces to deliver those supplies to people who are in a landlocked environment or the main supply routes are not open or available to them."

According to the Department of Defense, the U.S. military has conducted two successful airdrops of food and water for those threatened. The cargo aircraft have been escorted by fighter jets from the USS George H.W. Bush.

In all, U.S. military aircraft have delivered 36,224 meals and 6,822 gallons of drinking water to the Iraqi refugees, according to the Pentagon.

And more could be on the way.

"The United States military will continue to work with the Department of State as well as international partners including the Government of Iraq, the United Nations, and non-government organizations to assess the need for additional humanitarian operations in Iraq going forward," according to a Pentagon release.

Pallets of bottled water are loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in preparation for a humanitarian airdrop over Iraq on Friday, Aug. 8, 2014.