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E & E bundle: Lifesaving supplies from skies above

Feet and lower legs are shown beside a backpack and an open door on a C-130J.

The Escape and Evasion bundle is designed to speedily and reliably supply or resupply of downed aircrew or someone who’s stranded in a remote location an airplane can’t get to. It’s intended to be picked up and immediately wearable to reduce the time needed for resource recovery. (U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

An Airman throws a backpack out of a C-130J, while in the air.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan Pratt, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, throws an Escape and Evasion bundle out of a C-130J over Arkansas, Jan. 30, 2019. The E and E bundle is capable of transporting blood packs and other medical supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

A man holds a backpack in front of an open door of a C-130J as it flies through the air.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Micah Fernandez, 41st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, prepares to throw an Escape and Evasion bundle out of a C-130J over Louisiana, Feb. 13, 2019. In a real-world scenario, Fernandez would throw the bundle out to a stranded, or otherwise unreachable, service member in need of aid. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

A man holds a backpack in front of a building.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. John Gordon, 34th Combat Training Squadron NCO in charge of mission support, holds up an E and E bundle at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Feb. 23, 2019. Gordon headed the design and implementation of the E and E bundle. (U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rhett Isbell)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Whether trekking through hot, humid woodlands, an arid desert or traversing icy, frost-covered terrain, 34th Combat Training Squadron Airmen and other military personnel supporting Exercise Green Flag Little Rock train in realistic combat scenarios and multi-service environments.

These service members are regularly confronted with the reality of isolated, insular operatives in need of mission-critical supplies while out in the field. After using simulated, standard supply packs for this purpose, it was discovered that attempting to create an entirely new supply method could be a superior solution.

Recently, a member of the 34th CTS has been heading a project to solve this problem and find a more reliable alternative to send those potentially life-saving materials in a swift, flexible manner by creating a backpack capable of being dropped by parachute directly to operatives in need.

“The escape and evasion bundles are used for resupply or initial supply of a downed aircrew or somebody who’s stranded in a remote location an airplane can’t get to,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. John Gordon, 34th CTS NCO in charge of mission support. “We can put anything from MREs [Meals Ready-to-Eat], food, water, radios, first-aid kits, 550 cord, blood packs and other lifesaving equipment in them, and it’s turned out really well. It just adds another option for what we can utilize this for.”

Setting out to craft such a dynamic transportation method wasn’t a ‘one-and-done,’ venture. Gordon continuously received feedback from his team members in the field on more efficient tactical alterations to the E & E bundle design.

The critiques for the bundle came from SERE Airmen using it during GFLR, which is a joint-training exercise with the objective of providing the maximum number of airlift crews, mission planners and ground support elements to a simulated combat environment with emphasis on joint force integration.

“Giving feedback has been a routine item for us,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathon Peavy, 34th Combat Training Squadron DET 1 section chief. “Can we drop it without straps, can we make the outside more of a canvas layer, so doesn’t have a sheen on it and it’s not reflective, change the stainless steel metal accoutrements to black or tan, so it blends in better. It’s a regular feedback item that we visit.”

All of these changes and tweaks from the different members in the field molded the E & E bundle toward a common goal: survivability. Ensuring the supplies are able to endure the drop and remain usable for the intended party.

“The need in the field was to get resupplies in, and that’s not a new concept at all,” Gordon said. “That’s a capability we have. The change is how we get it to them. Survivability is what we’re after, and this provides that survivability for the stuff that we’re trying to get to the guys on the ground.”

After a couple years of constantly shifting the design of the E & E bundle to become a trustworthy lifeline for those in need, Gordon and Peavy feel like they’ve managed to craft a product ready for real-world circumstances.

The future of the E & E bundle appears hopeful, with multiple organizations including Air Force Special Operations Command and SERE units in the United States and New Zealand currently testing its capabilities. The E & E bundle has an endless array of possibilities available to it thanks to the innovation and man-hours put into its construction.

“If somebody’s on the ground, then we can at least resupply them by dropping a low signature pack,” Peavy said. “It allows another thing to bring to the fight as Air Mobility Command … for somebody who’s having the worst day of their life.”

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