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31st MEU Marines Fast Rope and Hook N' Climb at Sea

21 Jun 2009 | Lance Cpl. Michael Bianco

More than 25 Marines from Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (BLT 3/5), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in ship-boarding “hook and climb” training June, 17.

Marines with the Deep Reconnaissance Platoon (DRP), 31st MEU, hosted the training aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).  During real world operations, “hook and climb” techniques are designed for boarding a vessel of interest in a covert manner. It’s also one of two insertion methods used when conducting Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations.

According to Sgt. Stephen Box, a Weapons Co. machine gunner, fast roping via helicopter is a quicker method of insertion and can be used when a rapid build-up of the boarding party is desired. The “hook and climb” is stealthier and is the preferred method when surprise is the driving factor in the operation, but it takes more time to execute.

“Fast roping can be performed in about 30 seconds, while the ‘hook and climb’ can take a few minutes,” said Box.  “Our whole mission revolves around inserting ourselves on a ship and capturing the enemy.  This technique is an efficient and stealthy manner in accomplishing that mission.”

Sgt. Taylor Sorg, an assistant team leader with DRP, explained the process for the “hook and climb” method.

“We use a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) to pull next to the ship at its shortest ‘free board’.”  Sorg defined “free board” as the distance between the water and the deck of the ship.   Inserting at the shortest free board minimizes the time Marines spend climbing from the CRRC to the ship’s deck.

“Once they are at their insertion point, Marines attach a rope ladder to the ship and link to a safety line. While one Marine climbs the ladder another holds the bottom to stabilize it.”

Sorg concluded by saying training using the technique on a moving vessel helps Marines become better acquainted with the natural movement of a ship as compared to a stationary ladder.  “On land, we sometimes use a stabilized bar so you don’t get the full feel for what you’re going to be experiencing at sea. However, when we train on a ship, it allows us to get used to the sway.”

The training was performed in preparation for the MEU’s participation in Exercise Talisman Saber 2009 in Australia. TS ’09 is designed to maintain a high level of interoperability between Australian and U.S. armed forces.


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit