MIHAIL KOGĂLNICEANU AIRBASE, Romania — Although most of their missions are conducted in the cover of darkness, U.S. Navy SEALs take advantage of daylight conditions for training to hone and perfect their tactics, techniques and procedures.
Whether it’s conducting static-line or high altitude/low opening airborne operations, training is essential for the SEALs to synchronize their movements on a variety of aircraft to take them to their mission destination.
As part of the Jackal Stone 11 multinational exercise SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Unit-2 performed military free fall training while aboard a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter over Romania. The Seahawk is a medium-sized helicopter used by the U.S. Navy to complete a variety of missions to include sling load operations, troop transportation – and special operations forces missions.
On this particular mission, five members of the SEAL team sat silently waiting for the Seahawk to reach the desired altitude. After a few moments, one of the crew chiefs leans toward the jumpmaster and yells, “We’re at 9,000 feet now,” over the rotor noise.
The jumpmaster simply nods and signals the other four to begin their pre-jump routine. They check each other’s parachutes and use their hands to mimic what they will do to steer themselves in midair.
He next motions to the other SEALs that he is about to open the helicopter’s side door. Unaffected by the wind, the jumpmaster moves to the helicopter’s edge and looks over and scans the drop zone.
As the jumpmaster scans the earth, the other four SEALs move into position. The SEAL closest to the door turns around, and with his back now to the open door, grabs on to two of his teammates. The fourth SEAL stands to the back of the group and latches on to the other three.
Like a well-oiled machine, the SEALs move out. They lower the first SEAL out of the Seahawk backwards and then the others file out one at a time. The jumpmaster is the last one to jump, and leaps almost casually into the sky.
This year’s Jackal Stone, sponsored by Special Operations Command Europe, is taking place with Special Operations Task Groups conducting training in Romania, Ukraine and Bulgaria.
“Jackal Stone gives us a chance to work and train with allied nations,” said the platoon commander of the SEAL team that participated with Norwegian special forces soldiers in the military free fall training.
“The Norwegians are definitely on par with the U.S.,” said a medic for the SEAL team. “They are extremely professional.”
Being skilled and maintaining composure is very important for training as dangerous and complex as military free fall, the medic added.
“[On the jump] we went four out on our exit,” said one of the SEAL team members, “so everybody has to know which bearing they’re taking and where to shoot off. This is so you don’t get entangled in anyone else’s parachute. Then you have to pull the rip cord at the right time and right altitude to avoid any mishaps.”
SEALs will, at times, jump with Special Warfare Combatant-Craft crewman so they can jump into water, the medic said.
“With special boat team guys jumping, we can push boats out of planes,” the medic said. “The boat guys will go out after the boats and land in the water. Then,they get the boat running and we jump out and land,” the medic continued. “The idea is that we can provide search and seizure capability anywhere in the world—Sea, Air, Land.”
SEALs can perform military free fall with any fixed wing or rotor aircraft in the military that carries passenger and having the opportunity to jump from the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter during this training exercise is paramount, according to the platoon commander.
“Getting better and being among the best is what Navy SEALs are about, the platoon commander said. “That is precisely what the Jackal Stone 11 exercise is about. Being here and training with the other nations helps us to hone our skills."
“By training with the best, you become the best.”