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Thread: USMC MAG-16, 1st Recon jump into combat history

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    Default USMC MAG-16, 1st Recon jump into combat history

    MAG-16, 1st Recon jump into combat history
    Submitted by: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
    Story by: Sgt. Nathan K. LaForte

    AL ASAD, Iraq(Aug. 10, 2004) -- Six recon pathfinders from 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, recently jumped into the Iraqi night sky and into history from a Marine KC-130 Hercules cargo plane belonging to the joint Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadrons 234 and 352, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

    The high altitude high opening jump took place in western Iraq, July 23.

    Although reconnaissance Marines have religiously practiced air insertions time and time again, they have been virtually nonexistent in combat. According to Headquarters Marine Corps historical reports, the last combat airdrop a Marine Corps unit successfully performed was nearly 35 years ago.

    The first was on June 14, 1966 during the Vietnam War. A small team of recon Marines made the low altitude night jump determined to quietly insert and set up an observation point within enemy territory. The team made it to the ground with only one small injury and was later extracted.

    The jump was hailed as a success by most involved and the combat jump was accepted as a viable means of placing Marines in hostile areas.

    The second, on Sept. 5, 1967, almost killed the combat airdrop idea for the Marine Corps. A group of nine Marines jumped into the night sky for a supposed 700-foot elevation drop. Because of mechanical malfunctions with the plane, the Marines unknowingly jumped from around 1500 to 2000 feet.

    The team was blown off course by unexpected winds and landed separately in dense jungles far from their intended target. They suffered numerous wounded, three of which had to be medically evacuated, and some of the team barely escaped capture by the enemy.

    The failure of this mission halted the process for two years until Nov. 17, 1969, when the last jump occurred and the three Vietnam jumps marked the end of the Marine Corps combat jump history - until now.

    Theoretically, the jump was nothing different from the numerous training jumps the seasoned veterans have completed in their careers. What made this particular jump so special was the location and circumstances, claimed Master Sgt. Todd Smalenberg, primary jumpmaster, 1st Recon Bn.

    When the Marine Corps first implemented the parachute insertion program, the purpose was the clandestine insertion of troops to prevent enemy counter movement.

    The reasoning behind the July 23 mission was along similar lines, according to Maj. Douglas B. Davis, Hercules aircraft commander, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 234, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Davis was in charge of the Hercules aircraft that delivered the group of six pathfinders to their destination.

    "We were called in for this mission because the ground inserts were attracting a lot of attention and taking a lot of fire," the 36-year-old, McAllen, Texas native said. "They wanted to go in by parachute in order to avoid detection."

    Although the historical implications of the drop were important, the Marines had an important mission to complete, said Smalenberg.

    "We did an infiltration into an objective area to conduct an initial internal guidance of two CH-46E (Sea Knights)," the 39-year-old Oscoda, Mich., native explained of his team's mission. "We were to all insert clandestinely to the area to conduct counter (improvised explosive devices) ambushes."

    IED attacks on convoys and ground patrols are one of the problems coalition forces are facing in the ongoing struggle to secure and stabilize Iraq. This mission is one of many that are being used to counter this threat, Smalenberg mentioned.

    Overall, the mission was considered a success by those involved, claimed 1st Lt. Ken M. Karcher, airborne direct air support center, Marine Air Support Squadron 1, 3rd MAW, who relayed information for the recon teams once they hit the ground.

    "It was a pretty simple mission and it went over pretty well," the 26-year-old Raleigh, N.C., native said. "It was very well coordinated by the ground unit."

    "They went in, they were blacked out and we left," he added. "They didn't have enemy contact when they hit the ground. To me, that's success."

    The jump was something the enemy might not have expected, claimed Smalenberg, but the group took extra precautions in the choice of their jump by opting for the high opening.

    "The reason we chose to do a HAHO vice a (high altitude low opening) jump was the stand off distance the aircraft would be from the drop zone as well as the noise of the parachutes opening at 10 thousand feet vice four thousand feet is not even close," he explained. "The sound of a parachute opening at four thousand feet is quite distinct, but there is no noise of a parachute opening at 10 thousand feet."

    The mission itself was exciting for all involved, because even though units train for this in peacetime operations, it doesn't happen often, claimed Sgt. Lee A. Davis, loadmaster, VMGR-234.

    "It went great," the 21-year-old Arlington, Texas native claimed. "It's really rare for us and we don't get to do it that often so we really love it when we get the chance."

    The older recon pathfinders, none of whom were under the rank of staff sergeant, may have been even more excited than the younger loadmaster, he noted.

    "These guys were waiting their whole careers to do this in combat," he said.

    The insertions made in past efforts by the recon Marines have varied from using ground and aquatic vehicles to just plain walking. Smalenberg also down played the excitement a bit by mentioning that a parachute insertion seemed like the method of choice for the Marines.

    "Every time we roll out of the camp in vehicles, the enemy knows," he said. "I feel safer doing this than driving my vehicle out of the camp. This is the best means (of insertion). Besides, it's just another way to get to work."

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    the following is apparently a first hand account of the jump.
    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,
    Dan

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    The normal position for your brakes are in the stowed position during a during canopy drift. This is equivalent to the half brake position. If you un-stow your brakes you immediately sink below your fellow jumpers and your gliding ability is VASTLY shortened. If one brake line comes un-stowed you have to un-stow the other one. Your options at that point are to do the entire canopy drift at half brakes to stay with the stack.

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