U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY -- "Two minutes" signals the jumpmaster, as Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's (Special Operations Capable) Force Reconnaissance Detachment make their final preparations and begin to hook up the lines of their parachutes. "One minute" signals the jumpmaster and the Marines begin to move toward the rear of the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter. Finally the signal is given to go and the Marines move forward and disappear into the darkness.
Once outside the aircraft, their MC-5 static line parachute deploys and they begin steering their way through the darkness to an unlit dropzone, where, after landing they will organize themselves and their gear and immediately move to their next position to conduct other operations.
This was the scene as the Force Recon Marines conducted two nighttime static-line parachute jumps with the MC-5 via CH-46's from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, the MEU's Aviation Combat Element. The jumps were the initial part of the platoon's training while participating in a live-fire exercise in the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility.
The Recon Marines conducted two separate jumps over a two-day period. The first jump was a rehearsal for the next day and was conducted at 2,000 feet with a full combat load and weapon.
The second jump was from 10,000 with a full combat load.
"My guys were jumping at night, with a full combat load weighing 120 pounds and their weapon into an unlit dropzone," said Gunnery Sgt. Tim Hatcher, platoon sergeant and Fort Rucker, Ala. native. "This is just like what they would be doing in combat."
While the first jump was just a rehearsal, it was good practice for the Marines who last jumped during the MEU's exercise in Djibouti, Africa in November.
The main feature of both of these jumps was that they were both conducted at night into unlit dropzones.
"Some night jumps are conducting using a lit-up NATO T (marker) in the dropzone," said Hatcher. "That usually assists less experienced jumpers, but for my guys we pulled the lights out so they get practice landing in the dark."
As the last jumper hit the deck, and began to pack his shoot, the Force Recon Marines had successfully completed their two jumps and moved out for their evolution in the training cycle.