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.
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.
"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