YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- During Operation Christmas Drop (OCD) 2017, 120 bundles are airdropped to 54 islands throughout Micronesia. Each bundle represents much needed supplies for islanders who have very little as well as a training opportunity for aircrews on the ability to drop low-cost, low-altitude bundles in a coastal humanitarian airdrop setting.
Ensuring each bundle is rigged correctly and safe to drop is the responsibility of two Joint Airdrop Inspectors from Yokota’s 374th Operations Support Squadron on-hand for this year’s mission operating out of Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
Joint Airdrop Inspectors (JAIs) are C-130J loadmasters with a special qualification allowing them to perform this critical mission. With zero room for error, they are the last set of eyes on the cargo before it’s in the air.
There are two types of inspections JAI's have to perform. A before loading inspection to ensure cargo is aircraft ready and rigged in accordance with proper rigging procedures and an after inspection of the cargo once it's been completely loaded on the aircraft.
“We take a look at all the ties to make sure they’re all made correctly and we make sure the parachute is connected to the load correctly,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Mackey, 374th Operations Support Squadron JAI. “Every piece of that bundle has a purpose in how it’s built and it’s our job to make sure that everything in there has been put together correctly”
As their top priority in every inspection, JAIs look to eliminate all chances of human error.
“With our inspections, we make sure to eliminate the chances of malfunctions and ensure whatever we’re throwing out the back of the airplane survives the drop,” added Mackey.
Within these drops are nearly 25 tons of critical supplies delivered to 54 Micronesian islands impacting approximately 20,000 people.
The JAI’s attention to detail and ability to ensure safety makes them essential in delivering Christmas to the people of these islands.
“We couldn't guarantee safety without having JAI inspect the bundles prior to dropping,” said Capt. Daniel Gnazzo, 36th Airlift Squadron deputy mission commander. “This allows us to mitigate any risk involved with the airdrop process.”
Their combined experience and training is a major contributing factor to the success of OCD.