Follow me: Marines renew airborne certification

Follow me: Marines renew airborne certification

A Marine from Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group near Camp Lejeune, N.C., prepares for his first jump in the fleet March 20, 2013. The red helmet he wears identifies him as a novice, or "cherry" jumper. Photo by Cpl Paul Peterson.

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (March 26, 2013) - More than 20 Marines from Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group waited anxiously for a C-130 Hercules to arrive at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., March 20.

For some of these Marines it would be their first time jumping out of an aircraft since joining the fleet; others were fulfilling their quarterly jump requirements. Despite the reason, these Marines were all unified by their love for jumping out of perfectly good airplanes.

"It's probably the biggest rush you can get," said LCpl Wesley R. Jetter, a Williamson, Ga., native who has been in the Corps for more than a year and was completing his first fleet jump. 

Service members split into groups, or "sticks," of six to eight people. A stick leader led the group in a jump. He hollered "Follow me!" before leaping off the back of the C-130. The rest of the stick followed obediently.

"Jumping out of planes is scary at first, but once my parachute opens, I'm good to go," said Wesley. He is currently a parachute rigger with CLR-27 and said he wouldn't change his job for anything in the world.

To prepare for this job field, Marines attend a three-week course at Fort Benning, Ga. During the course, students learn how to exit an aircraft, maneuver with gear, emergency procedures, and how to land properly. They test these techniques during four daytime jumps and a final jump, which is performed at night. Students also learn hand and arm signals that are crucial for communication during the jumps. 

"The aircrew maintains contact with the ground crew and relays information to the jump masters," said Sgt Milford Anthony, a platoon sergeant and air delivery chief with the Landing Support Co. "The jump masters then pass word to their Marines."

While some of the communication is done verbally, the amount of noise inside the aircraft makes hand and arm signals the safest method to ensure the correct message is passed to everyone.

After completing jump school, the students receive orders to their new unit, and begin the workup for their first fleet jump. During their first jump, novice jumpers wear red helmets and are known as "cherry jumpers."

The helmets make it easier for ground crew members and experienced jumpers to identify them. 

"Cherry jumpers may not be as familiar with canopy control and maneuvering the parachute to the ground safely," said Milford. 

For this reason, people on the ground pay extra attention to them and can critique them so they become more proficient. 

"You have to be able to rely on the training you received at jump school … the biggest challenge to overcome is human nature," said Milford. 

For Milford, it is his fear of heights. 

"I just tell myself that if other people can do it, then I can too," said Milford, who had an incident during his last jump at Fort Benning.

"I lost my cool and everything that could possibly go wrong did," said Milford. "I didn't exit properly from the plane; my right foot got caught in my suspension line and I landed upside down on my head, neck and shoulders." 

Milford didn't let his prior accident or fear of heights hamper his progress though, and has now completed more than 26 successful jumps.

"I love what I do and I will do it for as long as the Marine Corps allows me to," said Milford.

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