Recon Marines prepare to take to the skies
Marines with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and service members of the New Zealand Armed Forces participated in a high-altitude, high-opening double-bag static line parachute course recently, at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, to become certified with the DBSL parachute as a part of Exercise Sandfisher 2014.
Sandfisher is an annual bilateral amphibious reconnaissance and combat diving exercise between an international partner nation and the U.S. Marine Corps. The exercise enhances interoperability, improves militaryto-military relations, and increases collective military readiness between the services.
The purpose of the course is to take basically trained airborne reconnaissance Marines and teach them high-altitude, high-opening training, allowing them to conduct it as well, according to Sgt. Nathan W. Contreras, an instructor at the Airborne Mobile Training Team. After completing the course, the Marines will be able to take their new capabilities to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The 12-day course consists of four days of training and preparing for jumping. The students practiced the techniques and procedures necessary when exiting the aircraft and how to properly prepare their own parachutes.
“It helps out a lot knowing how the parachute works, seeing how it is assembled, and what happens after we exit the aircraft,” said Cpl. Kyle D. Malone, a reconnaissance man with Company B, 3rd Recon Bn., 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It allows me to get eyes on the parachute and know there are no rips or tears. It is reassuring knowing my parachute will deploy. All my faith is in my own work.”
Packing their own parachutes teaches the students to be more confident in what they do and allows them to be self-sufficient, according to Malone.
“I feel like it is a struggle for most Marines to step out of their comfort zone and do something they have never done before,” said Malone. “We all came here knowing nothing on how to pack the parachute and now we know the whole process.”
Every time they exit an aircraft, the Marines put their lives on the line, according to Contreras. They need to have absolute confidence in their equipment and how it works.
“The biggest struggle for most students is the packing of the parachutes,” said Contreras. “This is the first time packing a parachute for nearly every student. At first they were struggling with it a lot, and as time progressed we were able to see their improvement.”
The Marines of Co. B, 3rd Recon Bn. are scheduled to replace the reconnaissance company currently with the 31st MEU in May, and will continue the training during their scheduled parachute operations in New Zealand in March.
“The DBSL parachute course will enable the 31st MEU’s reconnaissance assets to insert clandestinely into objectives without alerting any potential adversary of its presence,” said Capt. David W. Harris, the company commander for Co. B. “The course builds HAHO capability, which enables reconnaissance teams to be the eyes and ears of the ground combat element at the forward edge of the battle space.”