CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Marines with Air Delivery Platoon, Landing Support Company, Headquarters Regiment, 1st Marine Logistics Group, took to the skies to practice aerial resupply procedures and meet their quarterly jump standards from a C-130 flying 1,500 feet above Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 11, 2014.
It may not seem necessary that these Marines who push supplies out the backs of a variety of aircraft are also required to jump, but this obligation serves a very important purpose.
“The point of our personnel jumps is strictly for [the Marines] to hit their qualifications for being a parachute rigger,” said 1st Lt. Richard Sheppard, aerial delivery officer, Air Delivery Plt., LS Co., HQ Reg., 1st MLG. “If you’re packing chutes, you’re required to jump. It’s the thought of ‘if you’re willing to pack a parachute, you have to be willing to jump with a parachute that anybody packs.’ Essentially, it’s quality assurance.”
Air delivery Marines drop supplies weighing thousands of pounds, so having that kind of confidence in the equipment they maintain is paramount when providing resources to personnel on the ground.
“Today we dropped cargo loads full of dead weight. A [container delivery system] consists of the same weight of about four tractor tires that comes to about 800-900 pounds,” said Sheppard, of Grapevine, Texas. “They actually have to make weight in order for the parachutes to deploy properly.”
With that type of weight dropping out of the sky, more than string is needed to keep the supplies bundled. To facilitate the support of a heavy-delivery, the Marines use a Type V platform that can brace up to 15,000 pounds.
“Today’s drops consisted of about 2,000-3,000 pounds,” explained Sheppard. “On one platform, we had 16 55-gallon drums that can simulate dropping fuel or water to troops on the ground.”
It takes a certain amount of conviction for these Marines to unquestioningly drift from thousands of feet in the air. These select few are a rare commodity within the Marine Corps, with only one platoon providing aerial delivery for the entire U.S. West Coast. The same applies to the East Coast and Japan.
“The best thing about this job is that it’s a very unique capability within the Marine Corps,” said Sheppard. “The experienced Marines are a great group, and they all have a very unique capability set that they provide.”
Although most of the air delivery Marines have a plethora of experience, they agree that plummeting out the back of an aircraft is not necessarily something that becomes second nature.
“It’s a different experience every single time you jump. There’s so many different aircraft you can jump out of,” said Lance Cpl. Nicholas Santana, parachute rigger air delivery specialist with the unit. “I still get nervous for every single jump. I know I’ll be ok, because I trust every rigger, but I still get a little anxious.”
Santana, who has now completed 18 jumps, never lets the nerves get the best of him. Thinking of his family always puts him at ease until his parachute deploys.
“Once the canopy opens, it’s all really smooth from there,” said Santana, a La Porte, Ind., native. “Looking out of the aircraft before you jump, you can see everything. It’s pretty ridiculous to think ‘I’m about to jump out of this.’ It’s a pretty awesome feeling up there. I love my job.”
Alongside their other MLG counterparts, Air Delivery Plt. will continue to refine their jump and delivery procedures in preparation for Exercise Desert Scimitar 2014 next month aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., where they will demonstrate their capabilities.
“I’m more than excited,” said Sheppard. “We’re providing actual support to Marines and proving our worth within the Marine Corps. We are a legitimate service support that the Marine Corps can utilize.”