GRAYLING, Mich. – This year’s Northern Strike exercise featured something not done in years past: Humvees dropping from the sky.
The 36th Sustainment Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, executed a heavy airdrop at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center during Northern Strike 21-2. The exercise enabled the brigade to prepare for its upcoming deployment. For parachute riggers, that meant dropping things like Humvees from the sky.
Two C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 182nd Air Wing, Illinois Air National Guard, flew from Peoria to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan. From there, the 294th Quartermaster Company from the Texas Army National Guard conducted rigging of two M1097 Humvees. The quartermasters also loaded two large pallets per aircraft to be airdropped over Northern Michigan.
“This is what we live for,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Vic Valdez, the senior airdrop systems technician for the 294th Quartermaster Company. “It’s something we don’t get to do a lot, and to get to do it for this exercise was amazing.”
It was the first time the unit was able to airdrop a Humvee. To determine if the Humvees were viable after the flight, they were driven from the drop zone.
“I’ve never seen anything like that, and I was really shocked by the entire execution. It was really impressive,” said Army Sgt. Fabian Elizondo, a mechanic with the 1836th Transportation Company in El Paso, Texas.
Valdez said the brigade has experience rigging drops for Soldiers, food and supplies, but a Humvee drop was a new experience for the Texas Soldiers.
“It’s a definite plus in our book,” said Valdez. “We’ve always been able to do it but finally had the opportunity to execute this operation, and everything worked out better than planned.”
Valdez said the unit will be deploying next year. Members are completing many of their pre-deployment qualifications by participating in Northern Strike.
“Resustainment operations such as an airdrop are very important when we have Soldiers in an area that’s difficult to reach,” said Valdez. “It’s important to be able to get supplies to the warfighter on the ground, and we need to keep the mission going.”
The experience of dropping the diesel-powered four-wheel-drive tactical vehicles, which support combat and combat service support units, left a favorable impression on the training received during Northern Strike.
Although he has been in the unit for a decade, Elizondo said this was the first time it has worked so closely with the 36th Sustainment Brigade.
“Northern Strike has been an amazing experience for all of us,” Elizondo said. “Getting to work in a joint operational environment is something that many of us have never done before.
“Getting to go out with all these other people from different parts of Texas and the nation and coming together to complete the mission was truly exciting,” he said.