Drop it like it's art

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Lacie Jo Collins
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
When most people hear the word "art," they imagine a canvas hanging on a wall in a museum. Senior Airman Sarah Hathaway's art is displayed in a different manner -- falling from 800 feet in the air.

As part of the 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron's aerial delivery section, Airman Hathaway and her fellow parachute riggers are responsible for supporting the 37th Airlift Squadron's airdrop training requirements.

"When people think of parachute riggers, they usually think of life support," said Master Sgt. Travis Owen, the NCO in charge of air transportation. "However, aerial delivery is part of the air transportation career field, which includes packing and rigging parachutes to cargo for airdrop."

But it would be no fun to just rig any old cargo for this important task, so Airman Hathaway took to jazzing up the job. She paints the heavy training platforms that are dropped out of the back of the 37th Airlift Squadron's C-130J Super Hercules to simulate real-world cargo airdrops for downrange missions.

"I painted my first one three years ago," Airman Hathaway said. "We did one for fun one day; then we did another one to try to compete with the first one. It took off and the whole shop started coming up with different ideas, so we just kept painting them."

The most recent heavy platform was painted as a dedication to the 86th Airlift Wing. All 29 squadron and six group patches were painted on it.

"Two years ago we made one designated to the 435th Air Base Wing and now that we changed to the 86th, we wanted to paint one designated to the new wing," Airman Hathaway said.  

Brig. Gen. Mark C. Dillon, the commander of the 86th AW; and Chief Master Sgt. Vernon Butler, the 86th AW command chief; went to the aerial delivery shop Apr. 4 to see the new platform -- where General Dillon left his mark by signing it.

"This is awesome," General Dillon said. "When are we dropping it?"

The general's enthusiasm for the platform is shared among the Airmen.

"Everyone gets excited about painting the platforms," Airman Hathaway said. "We all come up with the ideas; it's a shop effort."

To some it may be considered art, but to Airmen of the aerial delivery section, it's an opportunity to showcase their abilities.

"I can tell you that these Airmen are very proud of their jobs as an Air Force rigger," Sergeant Owen said. "They take every opportunity to show their pride in what they do every day."

There are currently 14 platforms rigged and ready to drop in a first in, first out rotation. On average, the aerial delivery section rigs and drops approximately eight platforms weekly.