AUGUST 8, 2017, PARKER, Ariz. – This was a common scene for Marines with the Force Reconnaissance Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force, stationed at Camp Schwab in Okinawa, Japan, who conducted high altitude high opening (HAHO) sustainment training at IDIS-Corp facility in Parker, Ariz., from July 12 to August 1, 2017.
“We’re out here in Parker, Arizona within this IDIS facility and we’re doing HAHO sustainment training, increasing our capabilities as teams to clandestinely infiltrate from high altitudes – offsetting between 10 to 25 kilometers and ultimately landing on our designated impact point,” said the Platoon Commander of the Force Recon Company, III MEF.
The training allows the reconnaissance company to perform a more clandestine mean of insertion through tactical scenarios, i.e. surface-to-air threats or radar signatures that prevent an aircraft from getting in closer.
“This training is important because it allows us to provide the supporting unit commander that special insert capability,” said a team leader for the Force Recon Company, III MEF. “For us, jumping that unmarked and unknown drop zone is going to allow that commander to extend his area of influence and he is going to be able to do it all in house as opposed to having to outsource to another Special Operations Command.”
When conducting a long range insertion, the Marines now implement the Joint Precision Air Drop System, otherwise known as the JPADS system. The Force Reconnaissance Marines of III MEF were the first Marines ever to jump out of aircraft following the JPADS with a delay around 15 seconds and successfully landed on the designated impact point.
“We can follow the JPADS system out of the aircraft and navigate to the designated impact point,” said the Platoon Commander. “What we can do is load that JPADS up with vehicles for mobility, food and water for sustainment; it could be used for sensitive equipment, so we can use it once we hit the ground.”
JPADS allows the Marines to increase their sustainment, survivability, and mobility by bringing in vehicles, chow, water, batteries, or other sensitive equipment required for mission accomplishment.
“Jumping with the JPADS is kind of a fire and forget thing because I know we have the quality riggers that have programmed what they need to do. I know the checks have been done and that is just one less thing I have to worry about,” said a team leader. “The JPADS allows me to think about the jumper’s safety.”
With that ease of mind, the jumper can focus on the jump and actually enjoy the scenery on the way down.
“I remember one particular jump: I looked out and the first thing that came to mind was in the beginning God created and I was able to actually see the earth, his creation. I was able to see God’s hands at work,” said the Assistant Team Leader for the Force Recon Company, III MEF. “You’re looking at the earth and can see expansive mountains, it’s like flying, and it’s an adrenaline rush.”
The combined effort of the clear-minded Marines and the JPADS is one of the many capabilities the Marine Corps can use to accomplish its missions.
By Lance Cpl. George Melendez, III Marine Expeditionary Force