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Marine Corps Parachute Rigger Stresses Safety, Readiness

Marine Corps Sgt. Felix Lopez Saenz is a parachute rigger participating in Exercise Talisman Sabre 23 as a member of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

"Safety and readiness are repeatedly stressed when packing parachutes for people, weapons and other gear that will be released from helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft from a high or low altitude," said the 21-year-old native of Orocovis, Puerto Rico.

A Marine poses for a photo.
Felix Lopez Saenz
Marine Corps Sgt. Felix Lopez Saenz with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, at Midge Point, Queensland, Australia, July 28, 2023, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 23.
Photo By: David Vergun, DOD
VIRIN: 230728-D-UB488-999

Lopez Saenz arrived in Queensland, Australia, from Okinawa, Japan, aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America.

After graduating from boot camp at U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Training Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, Lopez Saenz went to quartermaster school at Fort Lee, Virginia, to learn his trade. 

As part of the training, he said he had to pack his own chute and jump out of an aircraft with it. Since that time, he's jumped about 50 or more times.

On July 28, 2023, Lopez Saenz said he was going to be packing a parachute later in the day that would drop off meals to U.S. Marines, Japanese and German forces in the vicinity of Midge Point, Australia.

"The meals, loaded on pallets, are pushed off the aircraft on rails," Lopez Saenz said. They don't randomly land anywhere. Sensors on the pallets are programmed with specific grid coordinates, so the load floats down where it's supposed to be.

Lopez Saenz said his parents were not surprised when he told them he'd be enlisting. "They always knew I was the adventurous type, and jumping out of aircraft as a Marine is pretty adventurous," he said.

This year marks the 10th iteration of Talisman Sabre, a biennial exercise designed to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific by strengthening partnerships and interoperability among key allies. The spelling of the name — sabre vs. saber — reflects which country is leading the exercise: Talisman Sabre when Australia leads and Talisman Saber when the U.S. leads. 

Over 30,000 personnel and 13 nations are participating in this year's full exercise. This year is the largest Talisman Sabre ever in its history, since the exercises began in 2005.

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