MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – Never mind watching football or pulling out the barbecue to finish up the weekend on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 fired up two of the squadron’s KC-130J Hercules transport planes on the Cherry Point flight line Sept. 30 to make a trip to the Midwest for the day to dump 21 parachuting special operations Marines into Indiana airspace.
The Marine Corps Special Operations Command troops hit their designated landing zone after a plummet of 13,000 feet into the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center.
In the back of the humming aircraft a Marine at the exit put up two hands, signaling the jumpers 10 minutes to jump, then one hand for five, until finally slapping them out with a firm pat on the back.
“It’s definitely the best day at the office and one of the more exciting things we do,” said Lance Cpl. Benjamin Lockyer, a loadmaster with VMGR-252 "Otis," and the eyes in the back of the aircraft ensuring the parachutists were on point.
Benjamin, a Wilmington, N.C., native, leaned out the back of the garage door-sized opening at the rear of the aircraft, looking for an orange 10 by 15-foot "T" on the ground, indicating where the troops needed to be dropped. Rarely do they land outside 100 meters of the mark, according to a MARSOC team chief.
“Precise,” said the team chief. “It’s absolutely critical that we’re on the same page.”
Lockyer and another loadmaster coordinate with the pilots, calculating wind, elevation, weight and the speed of the Hercules before giving the green light to jump.
Other factors include changes in weather and proximity of other aircraft, which they saw this day. A crop duster was in the vicinity of their drop zone, requiring them to circle the landing zone again until it was clear.
Once the jumpers were out, the jobs of the Marines aboard the aircraft were done, leaving the MARSOC Marines soaring to their training area below.
“It always boils down to how we work together as a team,” said the team chief.
The Marines conduct this training once or twice a month, said Lockyer. “It becomes second nature for both sides.”
Landing back at the air station around 7 p.m., it was another day at the office for the Marines at VMGR-252, who still happened to make it home in time for the Sunday night football game.