Peacekeeping: Pallets From Heaven

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March 22,2008: The U.S. Air Force used their air transports to save thousands of lives in Afghanistan this past Winter, one of the coldest in living memory. Over a thousand people died from the severe cold. Heavy snow cut off many villages. The air force dropped about 175 tons of emergency supplies to isolated villages in February, in addition to 325 tons dropped to U.S. and NATO military units. The air drops were up 40 percent from January, mainly because of the need to get emergency food, fuel and other supplies to desperate villagers up in the mountains. Helicopters are often used for this, but some villages are in locations where it's simply easier to do an air drop, or because all the helicopters are busy with a combat mission, or because the drop zone is too high up for a helicopter.

The U.S. Army provides the riggers, who put the supplies on pallets, then add the parachutes. The pallets hold up to a ton, or as little as a few hundred pounds. C-130s drop most of the pallets. Sometimes GPS guided parachute systems are used, especially when the drop has to be at night, in hostile territory.

The "humanitarian drops" are called in by civil affairs or Special Forces troops who find out about particularly desperate situations. When the snow melts, and the Special Forces pass through the area, the villagers are more willing to provide information on Taliban movements in the area. The Taliban are aware of this, and will sometimes threaten the villagers for accepting aid from infidels (non-Moslems).

 


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