Multinational team upgrades Afghan base security

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nadine Barclay
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing
A multinational joint team of U.S. and Italian airmen and soldiers partnered to execute a special equipment transfer from Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan, to the small forward operating base of Buji, Afghanistan, Feb. 6-8, 2012.

Airmen from the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, Soldiers from U.S. Army Task Forces Griffin, Centre and Spearhead, and Italian army security forces conducted the 95-miles transfer.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems used to monitor perimeter fence lines for enemy activity or potential threats were transferred to Buji by a series of "sling loads" -- cargo suspended in the air from the base of a helicopter -- for the force protection mission of Task Force Southeast and the Italian army stationed there. Among the challenges of this type of transfer of technical equipment, which is valued at $3.4 million, were the correct discharge of static electricity generated by propeller movement and overall stable aircraft movement.

"This is the first time in the two years since going to the career field of air assault that I was able to do something like this, and it was a thrill," said Army 1st Lt. William Bolton, the base defense operations center flight commander deployed with the 838th AEAG.

The equipment was transferred to Shindand AB on short notice when a CH-47F Chinook helicopter that was scheduled to carry the equipment from Herat, Afghanistan, to Buji could not make the round trip. A C-130 Hercules arrived at Shindand AB because Buji could not accept a plane big enough to carry the systems, officials said.

"We did not know what equipment we were getting," Bolton said. "I was on the edge of my seat until I found out that the equipment was something I knew."

The two complete ISR systems consisted of towers, trailers and conexes. The task required multiple two-hour flights from Shindand AB to Buji. During the transfer, one of the legs on the sling set started rubbing up against the trailer during the flight to Buji.

"After sending the second tower, we got the call that one of the slings broke," Bolton said. "My jaw dropped, and I immediately asked the flight crew if the equipment was going to make it. All we got was that they were close to base, and it should make it."

"After assessing the damage, it was found that the rubber at the end of it was peeled off; this could have been very bad," Bolton said. "Fortunately, it must have happened toward the end of the flight and never became a bigger problem."

All equipment was safely delivered to the forward operating base on time and without incident.

"As much as we use our ISR systems here at Shindand, I feel this equipment will increase the force protection levels at their base for all coalition forces and assets stationed there," Bolton said.