AL ASAD, Iraq --
The view from the back of a KC-130J, several thousand feet above ground and with the wind’s pressure pulling from all directions gave Marines a “rush” before jumping out of the cargo plane during an air-drop mission in Al Qaim, May 28.
Marines from Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group, delivered supplies with the support of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing; and 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division.
“We are going to be dropping two fuel blivets at Al Qaim, and we’re going to be following that up with a few jumpers,” said Sgt. David S. Cascio, a 27-year-old, parachute rigger from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., with LS Co., CLB-6, of the mission’s sequence of events. “We’re also going to be dropping two container delivery systems filled with water.”
Dropping supplies from approximately 9,500 and 12,000 feet accurately was not an easy task. To make this happen the supplies were sent below with a Joint Precision Air Drop System or Sherpa parachutes equipped with a global positioning system and a square canopy instead of the conventional round chute. This system “guides” the cargo, making sure it lands within 100 meters of its target.
Sgt. Christopher M. Bird, air delivery specialist with LS Co., CLB-6, who works with the Sherpas, explained that during this deployment they have been successful, the two drops have landed within 25 meters of their target.
Bird, 26, from Jonesboro, Ark., makes sure the Sherpas have a GPS lock before the drop. If that lock is lost, Cpl. Josiah S. Selby, air delivery specialist, LS Co., CLB 6, jumped with a hand controller for the Sherpa system to guide the cargo to a designated and safe area.
“As long as he has line of sight with the Sherpa he can control where it lands,” said Bird.
As for the jumpers’ safety, the Marines go through two jumpmaster parachute inspections before taking the plunge to ensure their parachutes work, explained Gunnery Sgt. Robert J. Blanton, 33, platoon sergeant, 1st Platoon, Alpha Co., 3rd Recon Bn., who is from Santa Rosa, Calif.
“The Marines landed safely and accomplished their mission, making it a successful jump,” said Sgt. Tim Cunningham, 26, from Albany, N.Y., who is a pointman, 1st Platoon, Alpha Co., 3rd Recon Bn.
Selby, who was jumping with the hand controller for the first time, described the jump as “a rush like no other,” and also finds it rewarding because of the service it provides to other Marines.
“It’s something I am proud to do,” said Selby, 21, from Baltimore. “The way I look at (my job) is the more loads we drop the more trucks we take off the roads, which means less (improvised explosive device) blasts, therefore saving lives.”