Below is a first-hand account of the first-ever combat HAHO jump by U.S. Marines, and the first static line round combat jump by Marines in about 36 years. It was accomplished by Marines of 1st Recon Battalion, out of Camp Pendleton, about two weeks ago.
The HAHO (High Altitude High Opening) jump was done using the MC-5 Static Line Ram Air parachute system used only by Marines (other Services have tried it, but none use it operationally in the static line configuration). This is the static line technique using a freefall-type parachute taught by the Airborne Mobile Training Team, which I've been a part of since last year.
The HAHO jumpers went in to set up and secure a drop zone which was then used by follow-on elements of 1st Recon to insert for patrols into Baghdad. I've inserted some comments for clarity for those who may need it. Read carefully, and you'll see why jumpers get that extra pay. All in a day's work! Check this out... Semper Fi, Tim
So the ramp comes down and I am the number one man, I can see all the lights of Baghdad below [the jump was from about 10,000 feet above ground level]. The aircraft is too far to the south and Smallenberg is yelling at the crew chief to move the plane 15 degrees to the right. It is too late and we need to get out now, he figured we can make it anyway and gives the go. I step out into a seated exit and my parachute opens on heading but the compass board flips forward on top of my combat equipment. I was using a dive attack board [a navigational board used by divers] because that's
all we have here at this time. It didn't work, too big. So I turn to the east using my rear riser and then unstow.
I check in on the radio and go for the GPS. I have a constant right turn because the brake line didn't come free of the finger trap [the brake line is also called the steering line - only unstowing one brake can cause the canopy to go into a turn that the jumper must counter with the other brake line]. I break the retaining
bands [rubber bands] that are holding the GPS and also break the dummy cord. LOL, So now I have a GPS in my hand and it's not dummy corded and I need to get my NVG's [night vision goggles] on.
I am at about 8500 feet. I put the GPS in my left hand and am controlling the parachute with that hand also because of the slow right turn. I get the NVG's on and have to adjust them to get them in the right place. What a cluster f$$k.
LOL, OK, I have them in place and can't see anyone because of all the lights from the city below. I look down and see Abu Garaib prison below me, YIKES I am already too far east, I get on the radio and tell all the jumpers to turn
and hold into the wind. I check in and let them know that I am north of [checkpoint] Mobile and holding into the wind, I couldn't hear them answer me but later found out that they could hear me.
I get the GPS working and the DZ [drop zone] is just under 3 clicks [kilometers] away. I now have to pull out the PEQ-4 IR pointer [an infrared pointing device] that I have in
a leg holster, I get it out and start looking for the DZ. I spot the farm fields and lase them so the rest of the stick can tell where the DIP [Desired Insertion Point] is. I start heading that direction.
There is a large canal right under me and I don't know if I am going to make the DZ. I still have plenty of altitude though. I look around and see one parachute behind me, it's the XO, he is the team leader. I look down below and there are two canopies below me. So I start hitting the DZ with the IR pointer again so they know which field to land in.
Smallenburg is the first to land followed by Bell who lands about 8 feet from him. The rest of us come in on them and our whole team is no more than in a 30 meter circle. We all have to do PLF's [parachute landing falls-ouch] because the wind was slightly at our backs. After the tumble we all get our weapons up and stay still.
The dogs in the area start barking and a few haji's are coming out of their houses to take a look. Once they go back in we start
our actions on the DZ and set it up for the static line sticks that will be there in 45 minutes. The two helos drop the static line sticks off the DZ and a few parachutes land in a canal but it's not deep. A few minutes after the parachutes are on the ground, we hear small arms fire and then an explosion, there is an ambush going on Mobile about 1 km from us.
Tracers are flying over the static line guys heads. It only lasts for about 15 seconds, then quiets down. We try to get air but they had to check off-station. It takes about 15 minutes before we get 2 Harriers and they scan the area for us but find no enemy.
The teams consolidate on the DZ and head out on patrol. We wait 30 minutes then call for our extract. 2 civilian vehicles come to pick us up, our guys dressed as haji's, we load the chutes into a small flatbed and get into a suburban and head back to the MEK [home base].
That's it, we've completed the mission and are the first Marines to conduct a combat HAHO, and the static line guys are the first in like 36 years to do a combat jump. That's it, talk to you soon,