PARKER, Ariz. – Marines entered the aircraft with their heads bowed against the whipping winds of the propellers as the plane ascended to approximately 6,000 feet in the air.
The paratroopers diligently watched the jumpmaster call out in a voice barely heard over the engines of the C-130 Hercules.
“Two minutes,” he yelled.
The Marines stood up, walked to the back of the plane, and waited for the signal to jump. What followed was a series of hand gestures that culminated in a double-bag static line jump for 24 Marines with Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, held here March 24.
A static line is a cord attached from one end of the aircraft to the other. When the Marine jumps from the plane, the line pulls the deployment bag out of the pack on the Marine’s back causing it to inflate.
“It’s the first time for a lot of these guys to take this course,” said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Mickey Eaton, the assistant operations chief with Company B. “It’s quite a bit of new information they have to learn and understand because this is a very maneuverable parachute, at a high altitude and a lot of emergency procedures.”
The Marines started the training with several days of classes and practical application before stepping onto the plane. Their first jump was with minimal gear, which allowed them to familiarize themselves with the parachute before progressing to full combat equipment.
They were required to have a total of 16 hours of packing the parachute throughout the course. During the packing process, each Marine checked for holes, rips and frays in the canopy. They checked the suspension lines for twists, turns and tangles to ensure the parachute was not damaged.
The Marines used parachutes designed for pinpoint landings as well as backup chutes in case the main one fails to deploy properly.
Jumping out of a plane from thousands of feet in the air can be a terrifying experience, said Marine Corps Sgt. Douglas Bobo, a team leader with Company B.
“I was pretty confident when I first went up in the air,” said Bobo, a native of Westerville, Ohio. “But when I stood up, my legs started shaking really bad. I almost had to close my eyes just to get out the door. Ever since then there’s no other feeling like it. I love it.”
The Marines taking the course were evaluated on their jump form, their formation in the air and their landing. They conducted both day and night jumps and were required to jump a total of 12 times to pass the course.
“It was a challenge for the Marines to learn to fly in a formation,” Eaton said. “This parachute has the potential to go extremely fast, so if they land going with the wind, they’re going to come in way to hard. They have to think about everything that could go wrong and overcome it.”
The Marines performed beyond the instructor’s expectations, Eaton said. He could tell they’d rehearsed and studied. He added that the Marines worked hard and well during the course.
Eaton said being qualified on the double-bag static line course broadens the spectrum of missions the Marines can conduct and helps them remain a premier force.
As they continue to hone their abilities with the parachute, the company will continue to prove 1st Reconnaissance Battalion Is a capable and effective fighting force.