IE SHIMA, OKINAWA, Japan -- IE SHIMA, Okinawa, Japan – Rain sporadically fell on two tactical vehicles parked in a grassy field next to a weathered air strip on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan.
Marines with Landing Support Company, 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, dismounted from the vehicles and looked to the sky in anticipation of the air drop training operations planned for the day. The drop zone, a square about 20 yards wide and 100 yards from the airstrip, was set up as a reference point for the pilots.
Late in the morning of Aug. 13, 2018, the Marines ears perked up to the hum of helicopter propellers in the distance announcing the arrival of a CH-53E Super Stallion. The Marines watched as the helicopter flew overhead and dropped a streamer the size of a scarf.
Staff Sgt. Gabriela Villagomez, the pack staff noncommissioned officer in charge (SNCOIC) of LS Co., 3rd TSB, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, said the scarf is dropped to check the wind and make sure the pilots have properly adjusted before dropping packages or Marines.
After gauging the wind speed at about 20 mph, the helicopter made a second pass, dropping two small, sand-filled chests strapped to a parachute that simulated a small bundle of equipment or rations.
The Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361’s (HMH-361) pilots radioed Villagomez, an airborne and air delivery specialist and the SNCOIC of the drop zone, asking where the package was dropped in comparison to the drop zone. As they circled around, Villagomez told them it landed about 20 yards away from the designated target. The pilots then readjusted for the wind to hit their target more precisely.
After the second pass, the parachute riggers began to jump out of the helicopter. First, they did a low-level static line jump, parachuting from about 2,000 feet above ground level (AGL), then a military free fall jump from roughly 10,000 feet AGL.
Villagomez explained that low-level static line jumps use parachutes that can be steered but not precisely landed, whereas military free fall jumps use parachutes that are meant for small group insertions and have the ability to precisely steer and land.
Villagomez stated the training qualified LS Co. Marines in parachuting and air delivery training operations and demonstrated 3rd MLG capabilities to other units. She said dropping simulated door bundles and Marines accurately and on target from aircraft requires a lot of practice.
“Everything is a learning experience, being able to see how our door bundles work and show our capabilities is kind of an adrenaline rush,” said Villagomez.