MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
Reconnaissance Marines from 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, based in Okinawa, Japan, are testing the waters and taking to the skies during Exercise Sandfisher, an amphibious training exercise held aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii from Jan. 11 to March 14, 2014.
The purpose of the exercise is to reinforce and develop their capabilities with high-attitude high-opening parachuting and combatant diving, as well as ground reconnaissance patrols and tactics.
Sgt. David Tanney, the jump team leader with Bravo Company, 3rd Recon Bn., and a native of Bellefonte, Pa., explained that there are three teams of six Marines: dive, jump and mobility.
“We are the jump team in our platoon, (parachuting) is what we do,” Tanney said. The team conducted jump training for one week, beginning Jan. 24.
Capt. Robert Scheeler, the executive officer of Bravo Co., 3rd Recon Bn., and a native of Baltimore, said they began training with their amphibious package, worked up to a full-mission profile and transitioned to double bag static line parachute operations to increase HAHO capability.
“(HAHO capability) means immediately as we exit the aircraft, our parachute deploys, so we can glide into our objective,” Tanney said.
“HAHO is a more clandestine method of insertion,” Scheeler explained. “The DBSL parachute we use has a three-to-one glide ratio, which means for every foot you drop, you will glide three. This allows for significant standoff, letting the Marines come in without anybody knowing. The standard MC-7 round parachute requires insertion right over the drop zone, and the enemy can hear the aircraft.”
The Recon Marines jumped twice a day from a Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft, practicing skills and developing the correct methods and tactics while working as a team.
“The more times they get to jump as a team, the better they are going to know each other’s reactions,”
Scheeler said. “If a real-world mission does pop up, they are going to be much better and effective at completing the mission.”
Cpl. Colton Langejans, an assistant team leader with Bravo Co., 3rd Recon Bn., and a native of Virginia Beach, Va., said training helps them gain experience in their military occupational specialty.
“The better we get at jumping, the more useful we will be to our battalion,” Langejans said. “We always strive to be the team that is called for missions.”
Tanney also explained the importance of successful training.
“As we train, we are being watched by our chain of command, and we try to instill confidence in our command,” Tanney said. “If we aren’t successful here, they won’t trust us to complete the mission. It’s a big deal.”
Scheeler explained the benefits of conducting this training evolution in Hawaii.
“We really aren’t able to consistently jump in Okinawa due to the weather and winds,” Scheeler said. “There’s also only one drop zone there, which is right on the water, so it’s safer to (conduct jump training) here.”
The reconnaissance Marines are here to conduct patrol training as well.
“Another reason we came to Hawaii is to give these guys a new area to patrol in,” Scheeler said. “We have had them patrol just about everywhere they can in Okinawa, and we want to challenge them. If you always train in the same place, you know the area. Things like land navigation go out the window because you don’t need it if you know where you are, and Hawaii offers a different terrain.”
Scheeler said a parachute rigger and instructor with the New Zealand Royal Air Force Special Air Service are conducting jumps with the Recon Marines.
“We are trying to develop a strong relationship with them,” Scheeler said. “They can learn from us and we can learn from them. Every military does things kind of differently and it’s important for us to see what others do.”
After the Recon Marines complete training here, they are scheduled to continue jump training in New Zealand.
“In Hawaii we will be jumping from 6,500 feet,” Tanney said. “But in New Zealand, we will jump from 6,500, 10,000, 15,000 and 25,000 feet. Because of the altitude, anything above 12,999 feet we will be jumping with oxygen. We are looking forward to that.”
Scheeler discussed how this training impacts their future.
“Our job is to be the eyes of 3rd Marine Division,” Scheeler said. “The best way for us to get eyes on (the enemy) is to push forward. This training is an excellent method of insertion, especially in high terrain.”