Rigors of rigging prove rewarding for 27 APS Airmen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Trevor Saylor
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Inside the 27th Aerial Port Squadron, tucked away in a corner and shielded by equipment loaded on pallets, is room 122. It's a small room that few people know about, but it houses a shop crucial to the mission of the 934th Airlift Wing, the Aerial Delivery section.

Inside Aerial Delivery are two full-time Air Reserve Technicians, Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Baker and Tech. Sgt. Scott Tammen, assigned to ensure cargo is loaded and ready for various practice airdrops. These airdrops, mostly at Fort McCoy, Wisc. and Camp Ripley, Minn. are crucial for the pilots of the 96th Airlift Squadron to maintain their proficiency.

A monthly schedule from the 96th Airlift Squadron helps the Aerial Delivery section prepare the loads required by the pilots. "The full-timers at the 96th are appreciative of the work we do to support them," said Tammen. "They recognize the time and energy it takes to do our jobs," he said.

The Aerial Delivery section, staffed almost exclusively by Baker and Tammen, is responsible for loading pallets with various types of cargo, re-packing parachutes, performing safety checks, and recovering cargo at the drop zones. There are a few principal types of cargo that are used which vary in size and weight. The heaviest of these, aptly named "heavies," takes approximately 16 man-hours to successfully build, assuming everything is in proper working order.

"When rigging a pallet, it is crucial to go in order and be meticulous," said Baker. "So we try our best to stay with a pallet and see it through from start to finish before moving on to another project." Attention to detail is a key attribute of anyone working in Aerial Delivery. There is a lot of work to be done in the shop while also manning the various drop zones to assist in recovering cargo. Recovering the equipment from the drop zone can become difficult in severe weather, especially the winter. Despite this, both Tammen and Baker said going out to the drop zone is the part they most look forward to.

Members of the Aerial Delivery section, colloquially known as "riggers", are required to attend a 4-week school in addition to their regular technical training for the Air Transportation career field. After completion of this course, the unit closely monitors the upkeep of all skills for the riggers to ensure the highest standards of quality and safety. Safety is paramount and the Aerial Delivery section has had no malfunctions or mishaps since either Baker or Tammen have been in the section. Tech. Sgt. Jerome Wy is one of the few traditional reservists qualified for rigging duties.  He has quite a different job in his civilian career as a consultant for ADP payroll systems in Chicago. "I really love what I do in the Reserve," he said.  Its great to get out in the field, especially going out to the drop zones where I can see the results of all the work as the pallets are dropped from the aircraft." 

The Aerial Delivery section is actively looking to expand and add new airmen interested in rigging. The shop "needs fresh blood," said Tammen. "That's critical for this shop going forward." Maintaining skills requires a lot of time spent doing the job, and the trips to the drop zone hold many opportunities for airmen to be on orders while supporting the mission. Therein lay the biggest hurdles, according to Tammen. "It's difficult, with budgets getting tighter every year, to bring people out when we need them," said Tammen. "The money is there, but it's not always reliable; people want reliable."

Despite budget constraints, Tammen and Baker both voice how much they love the work they do in Aerial Delivery. "It's not for everyone," said Baker. "But I love this job and what I do every day. It's never boring. There is always something going on."