MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352 supported 1st Radio Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force, in a low-level static line parachute drop exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, July 8.
The exercise began on the ground with mission planning. KC-130J Super Hercules pilots with VMGR-352 determined the best place to conduct the drop based on weather and wind.
“We have to make sure the guys land where they are supposed to land,” said Capt. Brian Lewton, a KC-130J pilot with VMGR-352 and a Des Moines, Iowa, native.
Once aboard the aircraft, the crew began setting up the static line and running through checklists with the pilots.
The VMGR-352 crew aboard the KC-130J consists of two pilots and four crew members.
It’s one pilot’s responsibility to keep the aircraft at a steady speed, altitude and heading in order to keep a smooth platform for the jumpers. The other pilot focuses on navigation and coordinating with the jump masters and crew.
The crew observes for safety to ensure everything happens in a safe manner. They have the authority and responsibility to cancel a jump if the situation becomes unsafe due to weather or issues within the aircraft.
Parachute drops are important to complete the mission of the Marine Corps because they are an essential method of inserting personnel and supplies into combat zones.
“It is important because that’s how we get Marines into the [forward edge of the battle area],” said Capt. Joseph McLaughlin, a KC-130J pilot with VMGR-352 and a Redondo Beach, California, native.
The training enabled Marines to support combat forces if an area is too dangerous for aircraft to land safely or impassable for vehicles, according to Cpl. Alejandro Gonzalez, a crew master with VMGR-352 and an Arvada, Colorado, native.
“[It allows] us not only to get people on the ground in a certain area, but also to be able to train our pilots to go out in Afghanistan or any forward deployed area,” said Gonzales. “We can have full confidence … that we can take off, get to a point, drop on that point with accuracy, and accomplish the mission.”