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Photo by Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker

Joint Airborne Operation trains Marines for inter-service missions

19 Dec 2005 | Cpl. Matthew K. Hacker

The cold wind blew strong as the sun remained hidden behind the faded clouds of the horizon. The foliage violently moved side to side and the tarps fastened to the Humvee appeared to be dancing away from its restraints.

Minute drops of rain floated to the ground one at a time as Marines with 2nd Air Delivery Platoon, Beach and Terminal Operations Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, set up an antennae to gain communication for the Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Training operation Dec 9.

The operation involved dropping eight container delivery systems, which 50-cubic boxes holding food and water, and 30 static-line jumpers. Static-line jumping is where a group of Marines are lined up in the aircraft and hooked by a cable above their heads. As they jump out the door, the cable releases and enables them to fall free. This allows for several jumpers to exit the plane at a high rate of speed.

“Training events like this one have a direct impact on the Rigger’s mission accomplishment,” said Platoon Commander 1st Lt. Brett A. Bohne, with 2nd Air Delivery Platoon, Beach and Terminal Operations Company, 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. “Rigging is a perishable skill that influences the safety of personnel and equipment. Only through rigorous training can Marines develop the confidence, maturity and expertise required to successfully complete their mission.”  

While the jumpers gathered at the Aerial Port of Embarkation building located on the flight line at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. From there, each Marine loaded into the C-17 Globemaster, flown by Air Force pilots, and took their seats. The roar of the massive aircraft made the wind outside sound like a whisper.

Meanwhile, the communication team traveled to Drop Zone Pheasant to set up.

On the ground, the team needed to maintain contact with the bird in order to relay information on the wind so the jumpers knew what they were facing as they floated to the earth.

Second Air Delivery Platoon tries to complete at least one JAATT per month, according to Bohne, but there’s a lot of work that goes along with it.

“Planning a joint-operation definitely calls for a greater attention to detail and higher intensity of coordination,” said Bohne. “Working with various outside agencies, controlling numerous moving components and the level of communication required is in itself a beneficial training evolution. The joint training environment offers service members the opportunity to experience the specific training objectives.”

Although much hard work and planning is needed to create an operation of this scale, once the JAATT kicked off it didn’t take long to make three passes to ensure everything made it to the ground.

The CDSs dropped on the first pass and 800 feet and the Marines on the second and third passes at an altitude of 1,500 feet above ground level.

Although the JAATT are primarily for training and jumping experience, Marines often enjoy their ride to the ground.

“What I love about jumping is the four seconds of not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Lance Cpl. David C. Ulrich of Stony Brook, N.Y. “And then, of course, landing safely.”

As the Marine Corps saying states, “Safety is paramount.” When participating in an airborne operation there are no exceptions.

“Safety is a contributing factor in everything we do in the Aerial Delivery occupation,” said Bohne. “For this mission, safety measures started with the initial parachute inspection before packing and finished with a weekend safety brief for the Marines who participated Friday. Safety is considered at every level – both operational and personal.”

There are four factors to a successful airborne operation, according to Bohne – solid communication, detailed coordination, cooperation and attention to detail. Bohne feels confident this mission contained all four.

“The operation today was an overall success,” said Bohne. “The platoon’s accomplishments included a flawless Joint Airdrop Inspection, the renewal of individual parachutist skills for ten recently redeployed Marines and the opportunity to learn the platoon’s strengths and weaknesses in regards to execution.”