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Fast rope training at sea keeps Marines, sailors mission ready

18 May 2008 | Lance Cpl. Ryan Wicks

Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, currently deployed aboard the amphibious ship USS Essex (LHD2), conducted static fast rope training May 18, in order to become more familiar with the processes and techniques involved with Helicopter Rope Suspension Training.

The MEU’s Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, Company E, hosted the training which was available to any Marine or sailor who wished to attend.

Fast-roping techniques and rappelling are both very versatile helicopter insertion maneuvers which are practical for fast insertions of troops, rescue missions and supply operations in urban areas, jungles, ships and amphibious places.

For the training, the service members, dressed in flak jackets and Kevlar helmets, boarded a stationary CH-46E Sea Knight whose tail end was positioned on the flight deck over the edge of the ship’s elevator. After each participant was given instruction and inspected by a HRST master, they jumped out of the back of the "bird" and slid down to a lowered elevator platform.

On the way down, each participant executed a lock out procedure in order to demonstrate how to manage the rope in case of an emergency. For the Marines hosting the event, this was a key part of the training.

“For example, Marines could be fast roping onto a structure and the wind could batter the helicopter away from the landing zone,” said 2nd Lt. Jerome Borden, platoon commander, 3rd platoon. “The lockout procedure would allow the Marine to stay on the rope with little struggle until the bird was in a safe position.”

Many of the Marines and sailors who participated wouldn’t normally conduct fast rope training in their job field, but with a high operational tempo, the probability of conducting helicopter-borne missions with the MEU, are likely.

“The training was a good way for the Marines and sailors to cross train on a procedure that is very important and can be a useful skill,” Borden said.

During the training the Marines and sailors were excited to do something different on ship.

“I had a lot of fun training today,” said Lance Cpl. Heedok Choe, a radio operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st MEU. “It was a really good opportunity to be able to conduct this type of training. I haven’t had a chance to do anything like this before so I’m glad that the training took place.”

The Essex ARG along with the 31st MEU is currently off the coast of Burma ready to support potential humanitarian assistance tasking in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.

Essex is the lead ship of the forward-deployed U.S. Expeditionary Group and serves as the flagship for CTF 76, the Navy's only forward-deployed amphibious force commander.  Task Force 76 is headquartered at White Beach Naval Facility, Okinawa, Japan, with a detachment in Sasebo, Japan.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit