CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan -- As the surge ramps up in Afghanistan, the military is scrambling to keep up with the logistical needs of supplying its rapidly growing force in the field.
As more and more troops spread out around Afghanistan to battle insurgents, keeping them all supplied with food and water can be a logistical nightmare. This challenge is compounded by the dangers involved with transporting supplies on the ground - where the threat from roadside bombs is so high that convoys are often too risky, forcing commanders to find other ways to resupply.
That is where the U.S. Air Force comes in. Every night, cargo planes drop badly needed provisions to U.S. troops who could not get them any other way. At Camp Bastion, Marine support units are working round the clock preparing planeloads of pallets to be dropped to their brothers on the front lines only a few miles away.
"We deliver all types of supplies - from food and water to ammo, even trucks and vehicles. And we rig them up for air drop which prevents Marines from having to convoy, keeps them off the road," said Sgt. Chris Genualdi.
As soon as the plane is loaded, it lifts off into the darkness. The situation in Helmand province has gotten so bad on the ground that they have had to resort to air dropping supplies to Marine bases around the area.
The cargo planes can only fly the missions at night, when it is harder for the slow-flying aircraft to be shot down. Still, as they approach the target area, the plane shoots off flares to confuse possible enemy missiles.
When the planes reach the drop zone, the load is released. Once it is safely away and under parachute, the C-130 and crew head back to base, where another mission is already being prepared.
The Marines may not get much rest these days, but they are a vital link in the war effort that will only become more important as troops pour into the theater next spring.
Genualdi said, "Just last month alone we almost dropped half a million pounds, so by us keeping those Marines off the roads we have possibly saved many lives."