by Specialist Ryan Lucas
173rd Airborne Brigade
With Saber Junction’s joint, multinational airborne operation fast approaching, the riggers of the 173rd Brigade, Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade are efficiently packing parachutes and rigging heavy equipment to drop into Hohenfels Training Area.
Saber Junction 2019 is an exercise involving nearly 5,400 participants from 16 ally and partner nations at the U.S. Army’s Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas, Sept. 3-30. SJ19 is designed to assess the readiness of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade to execute land operations in a joint, combined environment and to promote interoperability with participating allies and partner nations.
“The riggers contribute to SJ19 by providing the airborne insertion and the aerial re-supply,” said Sgt. 1st Class Erick Griego, the aerial delivery platoon sergeant. “We have 10 days to execute normally what takes two weeks to do… We’re on a tight schedule. We’re up early, we’re working late.”
Riggers serve a foundational and critical role for all U.S. Army airborne operations. Responsible for packing every parachute, they ensure paratroopers and equipment successfully descend to the drop zone.
“The airborne community can’t jump without us,” said Pfc. Priscila Castro. “I take a lot of pride in what I do, because it’s very important.”
Working alongside ally and partner nations, riggers of the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion operate at the ground level of interoperability.
With 16 ally and partner nations participating alongside each other, the success of the exercise will depend on the ability of the partner militaries to trust one another’s proficiency and competence.
Spc. Tritavious Jones, who has jumped out of an airplane with a parachute packed by a rigger from an ally, understands this well.
“We had never seen those chutes before,” said Jones, reflecting on his experience packing parachutes and jumping alongside Italian and British paratroopers.
The task entrusted to the rigger is a crucial one. Understanding the importance of their job, they treat every training exercise as if it were a real-world mission. To them, there is no difference.
“My responsibility is to always make sure that the parachute is ready to open whenever a paratrooper jumps out of the aircraft,” said Spc. Ashley Torres.
After all of the equipment and the paratroopers have jumped into Hohenfels Training Area, a recovery team of riggers will be there to collect the gear that will not be required for the remaining days of Saber Junction.
As he rigged a Ground Mobility Vehicle, Spc. Dachon Grant said. “When everything lands and everything is okay, it feels good that we actually did it right, as always.”