OKINAWA, Japan --
A group of Marines stand by to infiltrate a heavily guarded building and the only way in is from the roof. A CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter hovers 60 feet above the building and the Marines fast rope in to execute the mission.
In order to prepare for such tactical scenarios, Marines must first be trained in helicopter rope suspension techniques.To accomplish this, several Marines recently participated in the 10-day Helicopter Rope Suspension Training Master Course on Camp Hansen and in the Central Training Area.
The course was taught by instructors from the III Marine Expeditionary Force Special Operations Training Group.
The purpose of the HRST Master Course is to create instructors to train their units in helicopter suspension techniques, according to Cpl. Franklin T. Collins, assistant instructor of the HRST Master Course.
Students trained at a 60-foot rappel tower on Hansen during the first week of the course.
During the initial phase, the Marines were taught ways to tie a knot and harness and practice several types of descents from the tower before performing them out of a helicopter.
They would later apply these skills from an airborne helicopter provided from the mighty 'Flying Tigers', Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
"There is a little more adrenaline coming down off a helo," said Cpl. Matthew R. Figurski, a student of the course and rifleman with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.
During the helicopter portion, the aircraft would descend to the ground, and the students would rush in through the back, quickly sit down and buckle their seatbelts.
Once in the air, the Marines gave a thumbs-up ready signal before going down the rope.
During the daytime exercises, most of the focus was on getting students to the ground quickly. However, at night, due to safety concerns, they practiced descents at a much slower pace.
Even though it was darker and riskier, some students preferred the night descents over the daytime.
"The only advantage of the night descents is you're not as worried because you can't really see," Figurski said. "You just drop without any worries."
Always a top concern during the course was proper tying of the ropes and performing maneuvers properly to ensure the safety of all students.
"There's no room for error," Figurski said. "If someone does something wrong, it can take someone's life."
The skills learned in the course can also affect a unit's effectiveness during a mission.
"The training is really important during a time where you would have to get to the top of a building or ship and the only way would be through fast rope or rappelling," said Collins.
Course graduates are able to train Marines in their unit on rope suspension techniques. For many units, the opportunity to train more Marines is the most important benefit of the course.
"A lot of Marines here are from units that use the skills on a normal basis," Figurski said.