Military News

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Where the rubber meets the road

by Master Sgt. Todd Wivell
62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs


8/31/2015 - JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A combat offload process is defined as an expedited way to move materials into an austere location that is either being built up, lacks the capability to move certain pallets from the aircraft or to offload quickly in a combat environment.

C-17 pilots across the Air Force are trained on this process and in order to remain proficient on it, practice combat offloads using mock pallets built by aerial port squadrons.

At McChord Field, typically these pallets are built using wood or recycled rubber and hardened plastic material called Rumber.

The 62nd Airlift Wing APS has found a more proficient way of building these combat pallets and their efforts are saving the 62nd Airlift Wing more than $4,400 and 19 man hours per pallet built.

"I was part of the group who built the original wooden pallets back in 2004," said Jason Aven, 62nd APS freight load leader. "Costs were approximately $2,800 per pallet and it would take on average 16-20 man hours for 2 people to build one of these pallets.

"The pallets were being dropped on an average of 15-20 times a month for the last 11 years, but over the last 3-4 years they have been falling apart and we needed to come up with another idea."

It would take on average 4-6 hours of labor to rebuild the wooden combat pallets and even then when they were being dropped out of the back of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft they were leaving behind broken boards, chunks of wood, nails and other materials on the taxiway, otherwise known as foreign object debris.

"We knew we needed a solution and researched looking for something other than wood," said Aven. "We found a company that built combat pallets to Air Force specifications using Rumber, a combination of recycled rubber and hardened plastic material.

"They were somewhat durable but more expensive, costing the Air Force $5,500 per pallet and would take 30 minutes of man power to secure to a platform.

The 62d APS purchased four of these Rumber pallets but accordingly to Aven after an average of 40-50 drops, they began to notice cracks in the center of these pallets.

It was back to the drawing board for Aven and his team.

It was David Faires, 62nd APS resource manager and Tony Bamba, 62nd APS ramp foreman who came up with the current idea that is saving the government money and man hours.

Faires knew of a local rock quarry, Corliss Resources, that had worn out tires from their earth movers that they needed to get rid of and could no longer use.

"Corliss Resources is run by Tim and Scott Corliss and I go to church with Tim," said Faires. "We began to talk about our issue here at McChord with these combat pallets and it was through these talks that we came up with the idea of using these earth mover tires."

Combat offload pallets have to weigh between 900 and 1,200 pounds and the tires the quarry provides weigh between 1,000 and 1,100 pounds each, exactly what the 62nd APS was looking for.

"The tires are given freely to McChord and the costs for the pallet materials to make these work is only $156 per platform," said Aven. "Finally, these new pallets can be ready for dropping within 90 minutes of delivery.

"The motto of 62nd APS is 'whatever it takes,' and that is what has kept us moving forward with making the needed changes to these pallets."

In total the 62nd APS plans on replacing all of their wooden and Rumber pallets with these new earth mover tires and in all they will have 17 of them in stock when finished.

"This last generation pallet is able to exceed all restraint requirements for airlift, will hold up in weather, will not cause FOD on the taxiway and will hold up to the stressors involved with being dropped out of a C-17," said Aven.  "The total costs savings for 17 pallets of $75,000 and manpower hours of 323 hours saved along with a safe airdrop platform that will not fall apart and is easy to load are the culmination of our 62nd APS team working together.

"From the beginning of this project, this small team of aerial porters kept focused, pushing forward and bouncing ideas off each other and we are all very proud of our end result."

The mock pallet product has only been tested and used at McChord Field and meets the requirements set by the AF for what a mock combat pallet needs to be built like for training use only. The product is currently only being used for training purposes and is going through the process approval to be used operationally.

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