YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. -- In May of 2018, Marines with various units under 1st Marine Logistics Group and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing came together to prove the capability of a concept that has not been done in more than 50 years. The art of bridging is something the 1st MLG knows and does very well, but if the vehicles required to transport the bridge cannot get to where it needs to go, what do you do? The answer is to attack the problem from the air by dropping the bridge into the intended area.
“The initial reaction to the idea of dropping a Medium Girder Bridge was that it was unthinkable,” said Gunnery Sgt. Crystal Salinas, the 1st MLG air delivery operations planner. “The first thing you do as an air delivery specialist is turn to your technical manual and see if it’s even possible or if it’s ever been done before. The answer was yes, and then we started from there.”
To begin the process of dropping a bridge out of a KC-130J Hercules, the parts need to be rigged and packed on a pallet that fits inside the aircraft. Marines with 1st Air Delivery Platoon dusted off the old technical manuals and began rigging step-by-step. Once the five-bay single story Medium Girder Bridge was palletized and configured onto a 32-foot type V platform, it was transported to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., to be loaded onto the aircraft with the help of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 (VMGR-352). After the bridge was loaded in the aircraft, it was ready to be dropped at Yuma Proving Ground near Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.
On the ground, Marines with Landing Support Company, 1st Transportation Support Battalion, and Bridge Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, watched as the KC-130J Hercules approached the drop zone. After the parachutes deployed and the load landed in the intended area, the Marines began depalletizing and assembling the bridge over a gap.
“After the bridge was dropped and we saw the canopies open and it successfully floated to the ground – it was a great feeling,” said Salinas. “But I don’t think we are done; nowhere near. We already validated what’s in the technical manual; what’s the next challenge?”