ARCHIVED - Riggers: Putting the “Sure” in OP REASSURANCE

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Article / July 8, 2014 / Project number: 14-0119

Edmonton, Alberta —A central objective for the Land Element during OP REASSURANCE, Canada's contribution to NATO's request to promote security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe, is conducting airborne operations with paratroopers.  A crucial component to conducting these operations is Rigging, a speciality within the supply world, that deals with the assembly, maintenance, and function of parachutes in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Parachute insertions and jumping with our Allies would not be possible without their work, which maintains the safety of our paratroopers, interoperability with our Allies, and ultimately ensures operational success.

During Roto 0 of OP REASSURANCE from late April to mid-July, a small team of Riggers consisting of Senior Rigger, Sergeant Sebastian Pinard, Rigger 2 ic, Master-Corporal Chris LaBelle, and Packer, Corporal Jason Bent deployed to Poland with approximately 120 members from “B” Company, 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and conducted multiple jumps using different aviation delivery systems and parachutes.

The Rigger team provided essential safety and quality control measures for the Company during the operation. “It is a position of responsibility,” said Sergeant Pinard.  “At the end of the day, our job ensures that the parachute functions properly and that paratroopers are able to conduct jump insertions in as safe a manner as possible and have confidence in their equipment.”

During OP REASSURANCE, the Riggers were responsible for maintaining enough parachutes for a full Company, approximately 130 each of the CT-1 main and CR-1 reserve parachutes. Each time a jump occurs, the parachutes need to be repacked and prepared properly for future use, a duty that was required frequently during the deployment.

Within OP REASSURANCE, there were multiple exercises that required Rigger assistance. EX ORZEL ALERT (5-9 May), EX SABER STRIKE (9-21 June), EX PEGASUS KORSARZ (23-27 June), and EX GNIEZNO (2-6 July) all involved parachute insertions.

“Throughout OP REASSURANCE and all the exercises within it, we were able to implement our Rigging skills, improve our relationships with our U.S. and Polish Allies, and most importantly ensure that airborne operations were conducted safely,” said Sergeant Pinard.

Among the most challenging aspects for the Riggers was a water jump conducted with U.S. Forces from the 1st Battalion, 503rd Regiment on 24 June 2014.  “Our job was challenging to setup because it is not like back home where you have a humidity controlled drying tower, we had to recce a spot where we could adequately dry and prepare the parachutes for future use,” said Cpl Bent, who is working towards receiving his full Rigger qualification next year. Ultimately, the water jump was conducted successfully, and the Riggers were able to prepare the parachutes for future Company use during the later stages of the operation.

As well as working in varied environments in Poland, the Riggers also worked alongside and within different nations’ policies. In the CAF, Riggers are responsible for packing all parachutes both domestically and overseas, the sole exception being the CF-18 ejection seat.  “In the Polish Forces, when you become a paratrooper, you are responsible for packing your own chutes,” said MCpl LaBelle, a Rigger based out of Canadian Army Advanced Warfare Centre in Trenton, Ontario. “The Polish procedures are a little different than ours so when working together it was great to learn how they operate, however, Riggers are such a small and specialized family that the camaraderie between us was instantaneous.”

Becoming a Rigger takes commitment and dedication, with training taking two to three years. Once the 15-day Basic Parachute qualification course at CFB Trenton is successfully completed, there are courses as a parachute systems packer, parachute maintainer, and finally parachute rigger specialist. There are approximately 50 fully qualified Riggers currently working in the CAF scattered across all jump Companies, Search and Rescue, and SOF elements.

 “Throughout OP REASSURANCE and all the exercises within it, we were able to implement our Rigging skills, improve our relationships with our U.S. and Polish Allies, and most importantly ensure that airborne operations were conducted safely,” said Sergeant Pinard.  “This operation has been an excellent opportunity for the Rigging team.”

By Captain Brian Kominar, 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group

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