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By Cpl. Emmanuel Ramos, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit
“One minute!” shouted Staff Sgt. Thomas Maloney, systems platoon sergeant, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division.
Gear in hand, soldiers with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force unbuckled, stood up and shuffled to the rear of the aircraft.
“30 seconds!” Maloney shouted over the deafening roar of the rotary blades cutting through the air.
As the final seconds counted down, the CH-46E Sea Knight aircraft maneuvered into its final position, hovering within seven feet of the surface of the water.
“Go! Go! Go!” Maloney shouted.
Instantly, the Japanese soldiers pushed out the combat rubber reconnaissance craft and jumped out after it.
This was the scene as soldiers with the JGSDF conducted helo cast training with 1st Recon. Bn. during Exercise Iron Fist 2014 aboard Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif., Jan. 27, 2014.
“Hitting the cold water at that height and speed is a shock on the senses,” said Gunnery Sgt. Mickey Eaton, assistant operations chief, 1st Recon. Bn. “This training makes it so when we have to do it in real operations, we know what to experience and how to react.”
The exercise capped three days of training that included adjusting their bodies to the impact of water by jumping into pools with and without gear, as well as swimming with their wet packs weighing up to 100 pounds.
The Marines also trained the Japanese soldiers in rigging and loading a CRRC, commonly referred to as a Zodiac, using the “Soft Duck” method. This is done by partially deflating the watercraft to fit into a CH-46E aircraft.
“Helo casting with a Zodiac can be very dangerous,” said Sgt. David Johnson, 1st Recon. Bn. “If you don’t exit the aircraft correctly, you can actually land inside the Zodiac and potentially get, hurt taking you out of the mission.”
The training also incorporated amphibious insertions to an objective within Coronado after helo casting into the bay.
“This is the bread and butter of the Marine Corps,” said Sgt. Guy Higgins, 1st Recon Bn. “This is a great opportunity for the [JGSDF] to learn from us, and take this training back with them and tailor it to their needs.”
The helo cast training is meant to prepare the Marines and soldiers for part of a weeklong event that includes an amphibious insertion followed by reconnaissance missions.