MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462 supported 1st Expeditionary Operations Training Group in parachute-operations training aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 21.
A CH-53E Super Stallion with HMH-462 flew from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, to Camp Pendleton and loaded up Marines from the 1st EOTG to assist them in becoming qualified for para-ops training.
“Utilizing us allows them to facilitate their own training and to increase their overall effectiveness as a unit,” said Cpl. Dirk Ray, a crew chief with HMH-361 and an Austin, Texas, native.
First, Marines jumped from 1,500 feet via static line, a jump where the parachutes deploy themselves. The Super Stallion then lifts the Marines to 10,000 feet above the ground to perform free falls, where they jump from the aircraft and manually deploy the parachutes themselves at the right altitude.
There is a lot of planning between the ground units from Camp Pendleton and the squadron before the para-ops to make sure things run smooth.
“[It’s important] to build unit cohesion and trust that comes between the ground element to the air element,” said Ray. “To know that we can assist in their training and that they rely on us to have the air assist to complete such training such as para-ops.”
There are many safety precautions taken. The crew chief is there to act as a safety net between the back of the aircraft and the Marines aboard it. The crew chief keeps the jumpmasters informed of the safety of the environment, wind levels and altitude measurements, said Ray.
“We have specific contingency plans in place,” said 1st Lt. Jonathan Grizzle, pilot at HMH-462 and native of San Jose, California. “Every scenario is outlined in some of our publications. If a jumper gets hung up, we have a plan in case of that."
According to Grizzle, the air units and the ground units coming together keeps everyone current and helps everyone get certified in the training they need.
This training is intended to improve the Marines’ skill for future uses of this knowledge, such as a deployment situation. Units like the 1st EOTG deploy often and this training allows the Marines to be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
“It allows them to be able to perform, knowing that they’ve done it before,” said Ray. “[They'll have] confidence and be able to perform under the pressure later on.”