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Sgt. Carlton Wagster, a jump master with the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion and a Cincinnati native, watches as his Marines drop to the landing zone during parachute training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 22. Both units use this training exercise to perfect skills allowing the Marine Corps to add this type of stealth insertion to its repertoire.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns

Into the drop zone: ‘Greyhawks’ assist with parachute training

14 Jun 2013 | Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns

Pilots and crews with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 provided aviation support for parachute training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 23.
 
The crews landed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., to pick up groups of parachute jumpers with 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion and flew them to a drop zone over mountains on Camp Pendleton.
 
“(This kind of training) is really important,” said Capt. Dan Fink, a parachute jumper with the special operations battalion. “It’s a type of tactical insertion. You never know when you would need to be trained to use it.”
 
Acoording to Fink, this is a valuable tool the Marine Corps can use to stealthily insert its Marines, some look at this level of training as basic; even if it’s their first.
 
“This was just a low-level standard line jump; we were about 1,500 feet in the air,” said Fink, an Annapolis, Md., native. “This is my first jump since jump school.”
 
Some may see the jump as frightening and nerve-racking, but not to Fink and his peers. They trained for three weeks to be able to perform this task, while other members of the crew are veterans at their craft.
 
“I’m actually a lot less nervous now than I was at school,” said Fink. “I’m really excited though, right when you exit the aircraft there’s a peaceful feeling before the chute deploys. It’s kind of nice, or at least that was how it was during the school.”
 
Capt. Jason Snook, a VMM-161 Osprey pilot from Cumming, Ga., felt this kind of training is another tool in the Marine Corps’ arsenal.
 
“We volunteer for all of the parachute trainings we can, so we can get some of our newer pilots trained to perform these kinds of missions,” said Snook. “This kind of training isn’t required, but if we come across this kind of mission we need to be able to support it.”
 
Pilots and crew members must ensure they do all they can to make the transition from aircraft to free fall as smooth as possible on their end.
 
“Using programs in our computers we can get a little bull’s eye over the drop zone,” said Snook. “It allows us to adjust ourselves based on the wind and other variables.”
 
Once all of these conditions are properly reached and maintained, the Marines in the aircraft jump to the target area.
 
The different aspects of the training meld perfectly, providing the Marine Corps with another aspect of its elite fighting force.
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing