By Lance Cpl. Donald T. Peterson, Marine Corps Bases Japan
IE SHIMA, Okinawa, Japan — As cold air rushed through the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter, Army special forces and their Navy team members prepared themselves for a leap 5,000 feet above their landing zone.
Soldiers and sailors with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), practiced their parachuting skills with the help of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, July 26.
Pilots with the squadron flew two CH-46Es in the skies over Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan, enabling the service members to conduct parachute training.
“We enjoyed helping the unit with this (training),” said Capt. Vladimir Y. Yarnykh, a Marine Corps CH-46E pilot with the squadron. “We have taken them out several times to help with parachute (training), and we plan to help with future (training) as well.”
The service members practiced static-line parachuting, during which a static line is attached to one end of the aircraft while the other end is attached to the pilot chute inside the jumper’s backpack. This opens a jumper’s parachute automatically upon exiting the aircraft.
In addition to static-line parachuting, the service members also performed free-fall parachute jumps.
“Though people may think it’s not a perishable skill, it really is,” said one of the Navy jumpers. “If we don’t practice jumping constantly, then we won’t be able to do all our formation landings and jumps well.”
The unit’s airborne group frequently conducts parachute training evolutions to ensure its service members can perform their jumps safely when called upon.
“Safety is our number one priority with the jumps,” said the Army senior medic for the battalion. “Wind, weather and location all play a part in a successful jump. If the wind is too (strong), then we may not be able to control where we land, and if there are thick clouds, we won’t be able to see.”
To help ensure safety, Marine pilots communicated with Army Special Forces support personnel on the ground at the drop zone.
“Communication between people on the ground and the pilots is paramount to ensure a safe jump,” said an Army jumper. “If we go to jump, and there are clouds (obscuring our view of the drop zone), we have to be sure everything is safe on the ground. If it’s not, then we have to cancel the jump.”
As the training came to an end, the service members gathered and discussed the training evolution.
“The training went well,” said the battalion’s senior medic. “Everyone did their part and landed in formation like they were supposed to. Some had a few problems with their parachutes at first, but the important thing is that we know what improvements can be made, and we make (future jumps).”