Local News

Fort Bragg soldiers helping with Iraq humanitarian air drop

Posted August 12, 2014 1:46 p.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2014 8:37 p.m. EDT

— Soldiers from Fort Bragg are assisting in the government’s humanitarian aid drop to help displaced people in Iraq, the military said Tuesday.

The post is among several bases where parachute riggers are assembling pallets of food and water for tens of thousands of Yazidis, religious minorities who have been trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq by Islamic militants.

"We're rigging low velocity for the water to make sure it doesn't blow up when it hits the ground and open up the water bottles,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Schwarz with the 11th Quartermaster Company. “With the MREs we're going to deliver high velocity, and those will be able to take a larger impact and still not damage any of the food inside."

The U.S. military made its fifth air drop Tuesday at the request of the Iraqi government. To date, the military has dropped bundles containing 74,000 ready-to-eat meals and more than 15,000 gallons of drinking water.

“If I was on the ground and I was hungry and thirsty, it would comfort me to know that there are people out there that care and are rigging up these loads for us and that they're going to get here as soon as possible," Army Spc. Jonathan Echaves, said.

The food and water is placed in a cardboard container placed on a dampening material called a "honeycomb." The supplies are tied together with webbing and fixed to a self-deploying parachute. An entire aircraft’s worth of bundles can be dropped in 10 seconds.

Schwarz and Echaves are among 18 riggers with the company who can assemble 40 bundles of water in two hours.

“If I had nothing else to eat and knew I got an MRE coming down to me, I'd just be happy,” Echaves said. “Even if I didn't know how much an MRE could fill me up, just knowing that I had this one MRE for that day is just like, wow, I'm not hungry anymore.”