First-time ever accomplishment achieved by Airmen

  • Published
  • By Valerie Mullett
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
The combined efforts of several Air Force units has resulted in a first-ever accomplishment - transporting rock crushers via military aircraft. 

The idea was conceived by an 819th RED HORSE Squadron member currently deployed in Afghanistan. 

"Our (deployed) folks are working on several projects that require underlayment before concrete can be poured," said Capt. Brian West, acting commander for the 819th RHS personnel remaining at Malmstrom. "They weren't able to locate the aggregate they need and they couldn't find a supplier in the region to work with to get it. So they were forced to choose between three options." 

Those options included reaching back to home station for equipment, purchasing new equipment that could be shipped to them or finding a contractor in the area to supply the equipment. 

"They decided to go with the first two options and that's when the adventure began," Captain West said. 

Tech. Sgt. John Cottle, the NCOIC of Air Terminal Operations for Malmstrom's 341st Logistics Readiness Squadron, was contacted May 5 and told he was needed to provide assistance in coming up with a plan to transport three rock crushers - assets of the 819th RHS - to Afghanistan via military aircraft. 

"This equipment has never been tested to load on an aircraft before so there wasn't any technical order to follow," Sergeant Cottle said. "We (LRS, RHS, the manufacturer and ATTLA) had to create one." 

"Some things we had to take into consideration were if it's more than 20-feet long, more than 8-feet high, more than 8-feet wide and more than 10,000 pounds," he said. "These rock crushers busted all four of those criteria." 

The next thing he had to do was to contact the Air Transportability Testing Loading Activity, or ATTLA, based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and ask for assistance. They would ultimately advise the workers here on how to load the equipment, where to tie it down, with figuring out the approach angles necessary and making appropriate calculations to ensure the aircraft wouldn't be damaged. 

Before that could take place, members of the 819th RHS needed to contact the equipment manufacturers for advice on shipping the equipment and how to properly tie it down. They also had to contact the aircraft manufacturer with concerns they had about using them to ship the massive pieces of equiment. 

All of this took place about three weeks after the initial contact was made to Sergeant Cottle. 

"They had hoped to be able to get the equipment shipped to them in about three days," he said. "I knew that wasn't feasible." 

The parts were now set in motion to come up with a shipment plan. While Sergeant Cottle kept his finger on the logistics pulse, the 819th RHS members got busy working on the shoring required to load the equipment on the C-5. It took 37,000 pounds of plywood to build the required ramp, which when tested June 18 turned out to be about 20-feet too short. 

"There were about 10 to 15 people working on the original shoring plan," Captain West said. "When we found out the ramp was short, we pulled everyone from every AFSC we have here, worked on a Saturday for more than 12 hours and got the additional 20-feet of shoring built. If you could put a screw into a piece of wood, you were out there helping." 

The plan called for two C-5's to be used in this endeavor, however, plans were changed and one C-17 arrived June 16 to transport the first, and the heaviest, of the three rock crushers to be shipped. The project was successful and the C-17 arrived at its destination June 19. 

The C-5 was scheduled to arrive here June 13, but it broke down at its home station, Travis Air Force Base, Calif. After a week of trying to get it repaired, a different C-5 was put on the mission and it arrived at Holman Aviation here in Great Falls at 9:15 a.m. June 18. 

"The original plan was to load the equipment on arrival," Sergeant Cottle said. "But when the crew opened the hatch and went to pull down the ramp, one of the four support stanchions broke. There was no way we could load the equipment without all four supports." 

The replacement part was shipped overnight to fix the ramp and finally, on June 20, the second and third rock crushers were loaded onto the aircraft, along with all of the shoring material. It took seven hours to complete. 

"You would think after all of this, we could have a collective sigh of relief," Sergeant Cottle said. "But it wasn't quite that way, just yet." 

All of the certifications that had been received and the flight plan that had been created were based on the information provided prior to the addition of the 20 extra feet of shoring. 

"This put the total cargo weight at 168,385 pounds which was over the standard planning weights," Sergeant Cottle said. 

It wasn't enough to scrub the mission, but adjustments had to be made and they were. Finally, the C-5's engines were started and the aircraft taxied into take-off position. Using every bit of runway the airport had available, the prized rock crushers were airborne and on their way to assist in a critical mission. 

This was not the first-ever project Sergeant Cottle has been involved in, however he admitted it was the biggest and it scared him a little bit. 

"There were just too many unknowns with this project," he said. "But once the manufacturer's representative arrived to provide some of those answers, it became a little less intimidating." 

The aircraft made stops at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany; and Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan before reaching its final destination at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan June 24. 

"That's when I finally let loose with that sigh of relief, knowing it had made it," Sergeant Cottle said. 

"It was a lot of work but a lot of fun at the same time to help out our guys in the AOR," Captain West said. "I am extremely impressed with the troops here at home and at how they worked together to accomplish this. It has been an impressive effort from all the players. They had really good mission focus and we got the job done." 

Now it's up to the rest of the team who eagerly awaited the equipment's arrival. They are currently working to build a 6,000 foot runway capable of carrying C-17 aircraft as well as a parking apron capable of holding two C-17's, according to Lt. Col. R. Scott Grainger, 1st Expeditionary RED HORSE Group deputy commander.