USS BONHOMME RICHARD, At Sea --
Gripping the rope tightly, geared up and ready to fight, the Marines slide down the rope and brace for impact.
Marines and Sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit practice helicopter rope suspension techniques out the back of a static CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter into the hangar bay here, March 6.
“Fast roping is the quickest way to get Marines on the deck from a helicopter,” said Capt. Ryan T. Scheetz, the Air Naval Gun Fire Liaison Company Detachment officer in charge with the 31st MEU, and a native of Sarasota, Fla. “The fast roping ability within the MEU gives the commanding officer the capability of inserting his troops in a tight situation.”
Marines and Sailors, ranging in military occupational specialties from infantry to communications, lined up inside the helicopter in small groups. The HRST Masters, the Marines in charge of the training, guided each participant through four slides down the rope.
The diverse group, some being first time fast ropers, learned all aspects and techniques needed to use the ability in a real event.
The whole process, from the helicopter to the ground, lasts only a few seconds, depending on the amount of friction created by the person on the rope. The friction, a vital piece to arriving to the ground safely, is created with a firm hand grip and clinching the rope between the thighs and feet. Applying more friction slows the descent to a quick but safe speed.
Injury may still happen however, if the techniques are not combined with the right equipment. Each participant wears two sets of gloves to insulate the hands while sliding down the rope, while body armor, a helmet, and the uniform cover the rest.
“Wearing the proper equipment while fast roping is extremely important, because if you’re not, you will have rope burns all over your body,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Lane, a rifleman with the Maritime Raid Force, 31st MEU, and a native of Fresno, Calif.
Before hitting the deck of the ship, the Marines and Sailors spread their legs and brace for impact. The wide stance when landing helps distribute the impact and mitigate falls.
The purpose of the fast rope insertion is to deploy Marines and Sailors in a situation where a helicopter cannot land due to the physical terrain or time constraints. The 31st MEU maintains the fast rope capability for use in numerous contingencies from combat insertions to humanitarian operations.
“Being with the MEU, we never know what we will have to do and where we will have to do it,” said Sgt. Nicholas R. Wankasky, a cryptologic linguist with the 31st MEU, and a native of Chicago, Ill. “It is always great to be able to not only sharpen my skills for combat, but ensure I am able to perform when faced with any situation.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.