NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Kingdom of Thailand – Thai and U.S. Marines executed a bilateral static line jump and military freefall training exercise from a KC-130J Hercules aircraft Feb. 15 during exercise Cobra Gold 2013 near Utapao Royal Thai Navy Air Field, Kingdom of Thailand.
The aircraft and aircrew of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, participated in the exercise to support CG 13 interoperability objectives for Royal Thai reconnaissance Marines and U.S. Marines from the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF.
"For the mission we had to rig the airplane to ensure a safe exit for the jumpers," said U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Christian Villalobos, a crew master with VMGR-152. "For static line jumps, we have to rig cables and set ties, which break at different weights. We have to be pretty savvy about different ties and different knots to make sure we are doing them correctly so everything comes out safely."
Ensuring the aircraft is safe and in working order is equal in importance to ensuring the parachutes used by the jumpers are up to par.
"When we pack the parachutes, we check each individual gore, which is a section of the parachute, to make sure it doesn't have any holes, wear, or discoloration," said Sgt. Joshua Roman, a flight equipment technician. "We also check the cord which attaches the parachute to the pack. If there are any nicks or cuts in the line, it will affect the functionality of the chute."
After completing the checks VMGR-152 aircraft flew from Wing One Royal Thai Air Force Base, Nakhon Ratchasima, Kingdom of Thailand, to Utapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield to pick up the U.S. and Royal Thai Marines.
"We brief the jumpmasters on what time-warnings they will get before they jump and what the emergency procedures are," said Villalobos. "We practice emergency procedures all the time so that if there is an emergency, we are all on the same page and can respond in unison."
U.S. and Thai Marines then boarded the aircraft to begin the first portion of the training exercise. After climbing to roughly 2,000 feet, service members began the exercise by conducting static line jumps. During this type of jump, the pull cord for the jumper's parachute is attached to a cable in the aircraft, pulling the chute automatically once the jumper exits the aircraft.
At approximately 10,000 feet, the military free fall jumps were the highlight of the training. In order for the jumps to be safe and successful, crewmasters and loadmasters must communicate successfully with the pilots.
"There's a constant string of communication," said Roman. "Whoever's in the back of the aircraft is always in communication with the pilots. They're always exchanging information back and forth."
Once the pilots and the air crew at the back of the plane are on the same page, they double-check everything before the jumpers exit the plane.
"The pilots run the checklist from the front and it needs to be completed on time," said Villalobos. "If the checklist is not complete one minute before we get to the drop zone, we have to call a no drop."
The pilots and aircrew worked together to make the bilateral training successful. During this training evolution, there were 104 total jumps.
The bilateral training is essential because it ensures the two nations ability to increase their combat readiness and capabilities.
"Exercises like this are an opportunity for us to interact closely with (Royal Thai and U.S.) recon Marines," said Roman. "Having this training gives us experience working with one another so when the time comes for us to execute in a real-life scenario, we have the experience of working together and a real life operation can go smoothly."
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