MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE --
Sometimes a reconnaissance Marine’s mission may require him to parachute from an aircraft; therefore, the Marines of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion stay prepared for such an occasion.
On Sept. 11, the 2nd Marine Division unit practiced low static-line parachute jumps from a C-130 Hercules airplane, landing at Camp Davis, N.C.
“There always has to be that ability,” said Cpl. Wayne Clark, a team leader for the jump. “[We] never know where we are going, so the capability always has to be there. If we continually train for it, we will be ready for it.”
The group of 16 was a mix of relatively new jumpers and experienced ones. The day started on the ground practicing jump maneuvers, hand signals, safety and emergency procedures, and team leader control.
When the time came, Marines fastened on their parachutes and strapped 40-pound assault packs to their thighs to make the jump more effective as combat training. Jumpmasters thoroughly inspected the rigging of everyone’s gear.
As always, safety came first and the Marines waited for the day’s heavy fog to lift and the skies to clear before boarding the aircraft. Once the Marines were in flight, parachutes began to fly out six at a time in quick succession on each pass over the drop zone.
As the Marines exited the rear of the airplane, leaping into the wind, they locked themselves into a bent-over position they had rehearsed many times. After the successful deployment of the canopy, the Marines gained control and maneuvered to avoid collisions with one another. Once safely descending to the ground, the most important objective was to land as a team, close to each other.
The practice jump simulated a basic airborne operation for combat support, which keeps the Marines familiar with such a skill. A low-level jump moves Marines into an area quickly and with a better chance of entering undetected.
“When it’s too (dangerous) to drive in with cars, we have the ability to come in airborne under the radar,” said Sgt. Alexander MacDonald, a team leader for the jump. “There are always dangers doing this, that’s why we routinely practice it.”
With approximately one minute to think during a 1,750 feet jump, falling at the rate of 18 feet per second, a lot has to go through each Marine’s mind before reaching the ground, said MacDonald.
Each Marine has to consider safety, standard procedures, reacting to the direction of the wind, landing in the designated landing area while avoiding the trees, and maintaining situational awareness at all times.
Once the Marines reach the ground, accounting for the safety of each Marine automatically becomes the priority before re-packing their chutes.
“The strength of execution is rehearsals, and recon is known for its rehearsals,” said Sgt. Maj. Stephen A. Thomas, the battalion sergeant major.
Staying prepared for any mission is what the reconnaissance Marines rely on for their success, and parachuting provides a swift, silent and deadly way to place them in strategic places.