31st MEU flying fighters form friendship

23 Apr 2009 | Lance Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

Republic of the Philippines Air Force members with the 710th Special Operations Wing and U.S. Marines with Amphibious Reconnaissance Platoon and Deep Reconnaissance Platoon, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, came together to fly thousands of feet above the ground at Drop Zone Expo, April 20-23, in support of Balikatan 2009.

The Philippine airmen conducted airborne sustainment training, while the U.S. Marines participated in the Multi-Mission Parachute Double Bag Transition Course.  Both nations executed jumps from 1,250 feet above ground level; however the Marines participating in course also jumped from 6,000 feet.

According to Gunnery Sgt. Timothy A. Parkhurst, the paraloft chief and parachute safety officer for 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, the course encompasses the new Multi-Mission Parachute System (MMPS). The system, which is Marine Corps specific, adds capabilities by allowing units to jump from altitudes as high as 25,000 feet, which in turn creates a stealthier means of insert.

“When jumping from higher altitudes you have more time to reach your destination, said Parkhurst, an Overland Park, Kan., native. “This allows the Marines to jump at locations as far as 30 to 50 kilometers from their target which helps make them more undetectable.”

Cpl. Josh Riley, a reconnaissance man with ARP, said the canopy in the new MMPS opens slower, giving the jumper a smoother ride and adding more opportunity for mid-air course changes.

The goal set by the two nations’ jump teams was to execute 10 jumps throughout the period, completing three a day if weather permitted.  Airspace access in the Republic of the Philippines and prevailing winds more readily allows for parachute training than in Okinawa, Japan.

“There is a lot to factor in when doing jumps in Okinawa; such as getting airspace,” said Parhurst, a 16-year veteran.

Because of this, the RPAF hosts 3rd Recon Bn. on two other occasions throughout the year, allowing the PAF airmen and U.S. Marines to work together frequently and form strong bonds and friendships.

“It’s not like other exercises where you go once a year and you might not see those people ever again,” Parkhurst said. “We see many of the same guys over and over, so we can form long-lasting friendships and are excited to come back and see each other as often as we do.”

Tech. Sgt. Jerry Feliciano, a jumpmaster with 710 SPOW, said even though the two services jump separately, they can watch and learn from each other.

“They go and then we go, so we learn more talking back in the hangar than we do on the aircraft.”

Riley echoed Feliciano saying the counterparts’ ability to share those experiences and stories is crucial from a team building aspect as well.  “The fact that we are all jumpers just adds to our similarities and that helps strengthen the bond between us and our nations,” he said.

The Multi-Mission Parachute Double Bag Transition Course and airborne sustainment training took place in support of Balikatan 2009. Bilateral training and security assistance programs executed during Balikatan ’09 by Republic of the Philippines military and the U.S. Armed Forces, increase their ability to work together effectively to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that affect public health and safety.  


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit