Marine Airborne and Air Delivery Specialist

Get Career Info About Job Duties, Salary, and More

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By the end of World War II, the Marines abandoned their bid to retain an airborne paratrooper cadre like the Army's: the Paramarines. But being the types to take it to the enemy on all fronts, they retained their mission to fight on land, sea, and air. Smart move, because let's be honest: Even if you came by boat, it's always helpful to receive an airdrop full of supplies when you're backed into a corner.

Those supplies don't fall from thin air like a convenient Acme anvil. To get the goods to the drop zone safely, you need Marines trained to ensure the supplies are packed, the equipment's working, and the mission plan is sound. Enter Airborne and Air Delivery Specialists, Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 0451.

Duties and Responsibilities

Marines in MOS 0451 hold down three main areas of responsibility: air delivery, equipment maintenance, and parachute packing.

Similar to the work done by loadmasters (highlighted on the Air Force side in this overview of aircrew careers) 0451s have to figure out the safest way to pack and distribute equipment loads on the plane. There's more to it than throwing your luggage aboard before a flight, obviously – since in this case, your "luggage" weighs a ton and it's wearing a king-sized parachute.

Let's not forget, it's a poor idea to blindly trust that everything's in working order when you're planning to drop a pallet (or a person) from miles above the ground. Mundane though it may sound, it takes a dedicated team of 0451s to make sure all of the equipment needed to perform the airdrop is in working order.

Military Requirements

Like all aspiring Marines, an enlistee aiming to become an Air Delivery Specialist must have a high school education. The MOS is restricted to US citizens and only accepts volunteers. On the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, recruits need a General Technical score of at least 100, with no exceptions. And because it could be pretty unfortunate to fall out of a plane over water, recruits must achieve at least an intermediate-level qualification during the water survival phase of boot camp.

If you're already a Marine serving in another occupational field, the Corps' MOS Manual clearly states you can only move into the 0451 field if you're a lance corporal (E-3) or corporal (E-4) with less than six months in that rank. Sergeants (E-5) and below in the Active Reserve program may also be able to move into air delivery if full-time vacancies are available at a reserve unit.


The complete training package for a new 0451 takes about seven months at a minimum, counting boot camp and Marine Combat Training. Job training takes place at Fort Lee, Virginia, an Army base with a resident Marine cadre for devil dogs attending various Army schoolhouses aboard the base. In nine weeks, the Army's Parachute Rigger Course covers the 0451's three main areas of responsibilities in one phase each:

  • The aerial delivery phase teaches students to prepare an airdrop from start to finish. According to the course website, it concludes with a live airdrop, where Marines apply it all: They "pack the cargo parachutes, rig the loads to be dropped . . . place the loads in the aircraft . . . [and] recover the loads and equipment" once the goods are dropped.
  • The aerial equipment phase teaches Marines everything they need to know about inspecting, fixing, and maintaining 'chutes and airdrop equipment.
  • The parachute packing phase is pretty self-explanatory. But lest you think learning to pack a parachute sounds boring, here's the twist: To make sure you've been staying awake in class, you'll be "required to jump the parachute [you] packed during the examination." How's that for incentive to get an A+?

    That brings us to another very important point. Obviously, if you're going to be jumping with the 'chute you packed, you need to know how to jump. That means as a 0451, you get the added perk of attending Army Jump School, a school so coveted by Marines that the limited seats afforded to the Corps are frequently used as a reenlistment bonus.