Basa Air Base, Republic of the Philippines -- Strapped tight, leaning forward, preparing to step over the edge and descend 10,000 feet to the rolling hills of the Philippines below, the bilateral team lines up at the rear of the aircraft. After one final gear check, the Marines take a reassuring glance into the endless sea of clouds before jumping out, screaming toward the earth.
Marines and Sailors with Force Reconnaissance Platoon, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted bilateral parachute jumps alongside Philippine Marines and Soldiers here, Oct. 15.
Jumping out of a C-130 Hercules airplane, the bilateral force conducted static line jumps and high altitude low opening jumps, improving their ability to operate alongside one another and remain proficient in vertical insertion.
“Bilateral parachute jumping allows our military partners to not only work jointly with us on our aircraft, but also earn our parachute wings during highly specialized training,” said Sgt. Maj. G. A. "Butch" Vasquez, the 31st MEU sergeant major and a native of Corozal Town, Belize. “Parachute jumping is highly exhilarating, and our aircraft and equipment allows our Philippine counterparts to conduct training they aren't able to do frequently.”
The static line jump calls for sticks of four to six jumpers. Hooked to the inside of the plane, the cord is pulled immediately upon leaving the aircraft. Exiting at just over 1,200 feet above the surface, the jumper only has a few minutes until landing on the surface.
The high altitude low opening jump is conducted at a much higher altitude where oxygen is low. Starting at over 10,000 feet in the air, the Marines have to free-fall thousands of feet before opening their parachute.
“It is not every day that we get to jump out of a plane, much less get to do it with the US Marines,” said Pfc. Antonio Sanchez, a Reconnaissance Marine with Marine Reconnaissance Battalion, Philippine Marine Corps. “Before we jumped today, I had never had the chance to work with the US and was unsure how it would be. Now, after the jump, I know the Marines are great at what they do. We have a lot of knowledge we can share with one another.”
The bilateral group conducted eight passes of the drop zone for static line jumps, dropping more than 30 US Marines and more than 45 Philippine Marines and soldiers. The group used their HALO capabilities by jumping more than 10 Marines each.
The Marines and Sailors of the 31st MEU are conducting the 29th iteration of the Philippine Bilateral Amphibious Landing Exercise alongside their Philippine Marine counterparts in order to improve the two forces’ interoperability and strengthen their long standing relationship.
“It is great being able to learn from guys that are always in the fight,” said a Reconnaissance Marine with Force Reconnaissance Platoon, 31st MEU. “It feels good to be able to pass knowledge that could someday save lives.”
The 31st MEU will continue to train alongside the Philippine Marines and soldiers throughout the two week exercise, integrating the skills gained here into future operations. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.