Photo Information

Cpl. Gary Kremer, a crew chief with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166, Marine Aircraft Group 11 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, prepares to jump from an airplane, 15,000 feet above sea level while pursuing his hobby of skydiving, Jan. 5, 2009 above Lake Elsinore. The Boca Raton Fla. native spends his weekends jumping from high altitudes and has accumulated more than 200 jumps since he began his hobby 4 years ago. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin) (Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

‘Sea Elk’ cheats death, one jump at a time

5 Jan 2009 | Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

Spending time above the clouds can be a common thing for a crew chief. For Cpl. Gary Kremer with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166, the “Sea Elk,” Marine Aircraft Group 11 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, spending time above the clouds is part of his life after his work ends.

When he’s not riding in a CH-46 above the clouds, Kremer spends his time jumping out of airplanes from high altitudes, diving at more than 120 miles per hour, until releasing his parachute and floating to the ground.

“I took up jumping to add excitement to my week,” said the Boca Raton Fla. native. “Since November 2004, I’ve jumped more than 200 times. In spite of the nature of my hobby, it is the most relaxing thing I’ve ever done, and since my first jump I’ve been hooked.”

Kremer has dedicated thousands of dollars and countless hours to skydiving. He often inspects his gear for tears and holes, treating his gear like any other piece of equipment he’s responsible for as a crew chief.

“I relate being a crew chief to my jumps simply because I put faith in the hands of the pilots I fly with just like I put my trust in the handiwork of packing my chute,” said Kremer. “That is the reason why I try to be the best at both.”

On the weekends, he drives to his favorite drop zone, Skydive Elsinore, and prepares for a day of repeated dives. To keep him reaching the ground safely, he brings his own gear consisting of a main and reserve chute, with helmet and altimeter.

“The altimeter helps me see how fast and far I’ve fallen,” said Kremer. “When the electronic alarm in my helmet goes off at a certain altitude I pull my chute.”

He exits the cabin after reaching heights of more than 15,000 ft. above sea level, sometimes travelling with friends in freefall. After landing he folds his chute and prepares to jump, often having enough time to help newer jumpers prepare for the next take off.

“He adds great energy to the drop zone,” said Melanie Curtis, a jump coach and event coordinator with Skydive Elsinore, Lake Elsinore Calif. “He helps the new jumpers learn the right way to jump out, and at the same time makes them feel like family.”

Even though his days of active service will be coming to a close later this year, he will continue to return to the sky, pursuing his passion.

“In the next few years I plan on traveling the country jumping at different drop zones,” finished Kremer. “I have no plan on slowing down no matter how many times I tempt gravity.”