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Airmen ‘drop in’ on SHAPE Airfield on Chièvres Air Base for the first time in 51 years

Parajumpers assigned to the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing descend upon a field at Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. Leaders at the 424th Air Base Squadron have been pushing to expand Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Airfield’s capacity to support airlift missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

Parajumpers assigned to the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing descend upon a field at Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. Leaders at the 424th Air Base Squadron have been pushing to expand Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Airfield’s capacity to support airlift missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christian Lora, 424th Air Base Squadron airfield operations flight commander, right, shakes hands with a 435th Air Ground Operations Wing paratrooper on Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. As a geographically separated unit of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the 424th ABS conducts airfield support operations for U.S. and NATO forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christian Lora, 424th Air Base Squadron airfield operations flight commander, right, shakes hands with a 435th Air Ground Operations Wing paratrooper on Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. As a geographically separated unit of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the 424th ABS conducts airfield support operations for U.S. and NATO forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Magbanua)

Airman assigned to the 435th Contingecy Respons Squadron return to the drop zone after parajumping from a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, on Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. This is the first time in 51 years that parajumpers have conducted an interoperablity exercise on Chievres. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Leighty)

Airman assigned to the 435th Contingecy Respons Squadron return to the drop zone after parajumping from a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, on Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. This is the first time in 51 years that parajumpers have conducted an interoperablity exercise on Chievres. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Leighty)

A parajumper descends from a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft over Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. Twelve parapjumpers participated in the jump on Chievres as a co-operablity exercise between Airmen from Chievers and Ramstein Air Base to show the base's ability to extend air power to Belgium. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel Leighty)

A parajumper descends from a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft over Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. Twelve parapjumpers participated in the jump on Chievres as a co-operablity exercise between Airmen from Chievers and Ramstein Air Base to show the base's ability to extend air power to Belgium. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel Leighty)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Fiveash, 424th Air Base Squadron, non-commisioned officer in charge of Airfield Managment, repsonds to a call on the flightline on Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. Fiveash acts as a safety observer, ensuring that aircraft are safe to land from the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airmans 1st Class Airlel Leighty)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Fiveash, 424th Air Base Squadron, non-commisioned officer in charge of Airfield Managment, repsonds to a call on the flightline on Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. Fiveash acts as a safety observer, ensuring that aircraft are safe to land from the ground. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airmans 1st Class Airlel Leighty)

A 37th Airlfit Squadron loadmaster give the "okay" for parajumpers to begin their jump out of the C-130J Super Hercules over Chievres Air Base, Oct. 4, 2018. Two C-130s from the 37th AS executed the mission which were controlled by the 435th CRS in support of the NATO mission exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel Leighty)

A 37th Airlfit Squadron loadmaster give the "okay" for parajumpers to begin their jump out of the C-130J Super Hercules over Chievres Air Base, Oct. 4, 2018. Two C-130s from the 37th AS executed the mission which were controlled by the 435th CRS in support of the NATO mission exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel Leighty)

A parajumper airdrops from a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft over Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. Twelve parapjumpers participated in the jump on Chievres as a co-operablity exercise between Airmen from Chievers and Ramstein Air Base to show the base's ability to extend air power to Belgium. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel Leighty)

A parajumper airdrops from a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft over Chievres Air Base, Belgium, Oct. 4, 2018. Twelve parapjumpers participated in the jump on Chievres as a co-operablity exercise between Airmen from Chievers and Ramstein Air Base to show the base's ability to extend air power to Belgium. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ariel Leighty)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brady Vaira, 435th Contingency Response Squadron deputy commander, returns to the drop zone after parajumping form a C-130J Super Hercules on Chievers Air Base, Oct 4, 2018. This is the first time in 51 years tha parajumpers have conducted an interoperabilty exercise with Chivers Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brady Vaira, 435th Contingency Response Squadron deputy commander, returns to the drop zone after parajumping form a C-130J Super Hercules on Chievers Air Base, Oct 4, 2018. This is the first time in 51 years tha parajumpers have conducted an interoperabilty exercise with Chivers Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Airmen from the 424th Air Base Squadron at Chièvres Air Base, Belgium welcomed some visitors who ‘dropped in’ from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 4, 2018, in way not seen in over a half century.

“It’s the first time in 51 years that we are conducting airdrop exercises at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Airfield. In addition to the airdrop, crews will be using the newly certified assault landing zone to conduct Engine Running On-loads and Offloads,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Tim O’Rourke, 424th ABS Director of Operations.

Parajumpers from Ramstein’s 435th Air Ground Operations Wing participated in the jump, conducted from C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron.

As a geographically separated unit of Ramstein's 86th Airlift Wing, the mission of the 424th ABS is to provide airfield operations support for the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The newly implemented drop zone provides NATO nations a training arena to practice and hone skills vital for combat readiness.

“The objective of the exercise was to demonstrate the new capability of the airfield,” said O’Rourke. “In doing so, we were able to contribute to the readiness and training for tactical airlift crews and airborne units. All of our Airmen were essential to today’s mission. Without their contributions, and the support from the local community, SHAPE, USAG-BENELUX, the 86 OG, and 435 CRG, none of this would have been possible.

Leaders at the 424th ABS have been identifying ways to expand their airfield’s ability to support various Army and Air Force missions and training opportunities.

When it became known that SHAPE airfield had infrastructure to support landing and drop zone operations, research was conducted to determine whether or not it was viable to establish such operations at Chievres, O’Rourke said.

A series of site surveys and risk assessments showed the capability was possible, and the landing and drop zones were soon certified for use.

The recent airdrop of 435th AGOW Airmen served as a proof of concept that Chievres can accommodate tactical airlift training, O’Rourke added.

“If we were to use the proverbial ‘crawl, walk, run,’ I would say we are in the walking stage,” he said. “We are getting closer and closer to becoming fully operational in terms of our in-house capabilities to support expanded operations.”

Lt Col Craig Lindstrom, 424th ABS commander, described the expansion of Chievres’ capabilities as a collaborative effort which required ingenuity on the part of all of the squadron’s mission partners. At Chievres, the U.S. Army operates the installation, while local farmers own portions of the property within the perimeter of the base, including on the airfield.

Lindstrom said the location of SHAPE airfield is ideal for the use of C-130s from Ramstein because of the relatively short flight time and the available maneuvering airspace to conduct airdrop. The squadron’s intent is to look at the airfield not merely as a transit hub, but a training arena for NATO aircrews and airborne forces to get realistic, easy-to-schedule training opportunities in the heart of Western Europe.

“We are excited to see this vision become a reality, and are hopeful it will make positive contributions to NATO training and readiness.”