MMPS in Iraq



New chutes get high marks from Marines in Iraq
MMP versatile, easier to use, jumpers say after training in Iraq
By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cindy Fisher / S&S
Marines with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion line up one behind one another for landing in a drop zone on Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province, Iraq, last week. This was their second day of static line jumps -- in which their parachute is automatically released as they jump from an airplane -- using the Marine Corps' new multi-mission parachute system.

Cindy Fisher / S&S
Gunnery Sgt. Timothy Parkhurst, 41, a parachute rigger with 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, demonstrates how to gently push as much air as possible out of a parachute before packing it for jumping at Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province, Iraq, last week.

Cindy Fisher / S&S
Gunnery Sgt. Marc Hogue does a free-fall parachute jump at 10,000 feet into a drop zone on Al Asad Air Base in Anbar province, Iraq, last week. This was the first time that the Marine Corps' newest parachute, the multi-mission parachute system, was being used in Iraq.

Cindy Fisher / S&S
Sgt. Chris Forncrook, 23, of Sacramento, Calif., touches down at a drop zone on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq last week using the Marine Corps' new multi-mission parachute system. The 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion Marine said the ride down from 5,500 feet up was fun.The new parachute makes landing better, he said. AL ASAD, Iraq — The Marine Corps’ newest parachute was used for the first time in Iraq last week during a five-day training program of progressively more difficult jumps. Officials say testing the gear in a war zone makes perfect sense.

The multimission parachute system, which the Corps had been testing for about two years, is replacing the MC-5 static line/free-fall ram air parachute system, said Master Sgt. Monroe Stueber, operations chief of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion.

More than 20 jumpers with 3rd Recon participated in the day and night static line jumps from 5,500 feet and higher, and free fall jumps from 10,000 feet, using the multimission parachute system.

This was also the first time that static line and free fall jumps had been done together, Gunnery Sgt. Marc Hogue, 39, a 3rd Recon jump master from Tempe, Ariz., said Thursday.

The successful completion of this training package "opens a lot of doors for recon battalions to do this outside the wire in Iraq," said Stueber, 45, of Jacksonville, N.C.

Convoying to various locations in Iraq has, in the past, been problematic because of roadside dangers including bombs, he said. On the road, "the biggest threat to us is IEDs (improvised explosive devices); we can beat that by jumping," Stueber said.

Marines could also be brought in by helicopter, but parachuting is quieter, he said.

"We can cut down risks," he said. "This is another means to put somebody into a situation."

Once among the most violent areas in Iraq, Anbar province has now become one of the most quiet, so much so that the Marines could do the training here.

Marine recon units had completed some jumps in the past using the MC-5 chute, but the new chute is more versatile and more forgiving than the MC-5, Stueber said. The MC-5 parachute could be used in only two configurations, for static line jumps and for free fall jumps.

In a static line jump, the parachute release is attached to a static line in the aircraft that automatically deploys the chute when the jumper exits the plane. In free fall, a jumper leaves the plane and then hand-deploys his parachute at a certain altitude.

The new parachute can be used in four different configurations: free fall, hand-deployed with an attached pilot chute; free fall, hand-deployed with a drogue chute; double bag static line in which the bag contains a pilot chute and the main chute; and static line with a drogue chute.

Pilot and drogue chutes are auxiliary chutes used to deploy main or reserve parachutes.

"It’s an incredible piece of gear. Now instead of several different types of chutes in the paraloft, we have just one," Lt. Col. William Seely, 3rd Recon Battalion’s commander, said Wednesday.

Another improvement is that the canopy has nine cells, which gives the parachute a better lift capacity and glide, Stueber said. The MC-5 has seven.

The chute is more maneuverable, and it’s a very forgiving parachute, he said.

The 3rd Recon jumpers who used the new chute agreed that it was a vast improvement over the MC-5 parachute.

"I love the MMPS," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Warner, 25. "You can pretty much land it wherever you want to."

Stueber agreed with this assessment.

"You can really screw this thing up and still land it," he said.

Once the training package is completed, 3rd Recon hopes to do jumps outside the wire using the multimission parachute system, several battalion leaders said.

"It’s easier; it makes more sense; this is what we should be doing," Hogue told Marines after their first jump Wednesday.