MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
With a multitude of missions requiring air insertions, Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element must be ready to reach their objectives using little more than their wits and some rope.
“They are bringing back to their units the capability of fast-roping and rappelling from different platforms,” said Sgt. Elton Rickets, a chief instructor with Special Operations Training Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
The training takes the Marines from having little knowledge about rappelling and rigging to being able to successfully and safely, rappel or fast-rope out of a hovering aircraft – and how to teach others this vital skill.
“When they first get here a lot of the students don’t even know how to tie a basic knot,” said Rickets, 24, from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. “It’s pretty interesting to watch the progression from not knowing anything at all about rope work to being able to tie a total of twelve knots and able to rappel from an actual aircraft.”
The Marines learned how to tie a Swiss-seat harness from nothing more than a section of rope and how to tie the knots needed for the first training evolution.
“We start our first day with seat harness appreciation,” said Staff Sgt. Adam R. Morrison, the assault climber section staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge with SOTG, I MEF. “We do this because most of them will be using just rope, very few units issue an actual harness, and it also prepares them for situations where they don’t have a harness.”
After the instructors check each students’ knowledge on the knots they learned as well as rappelling and mastering techniques, they climb to the top of the rappel tower to apply what they have learned.
“This gives them a chance to practice rappelling and fast roping from multiple helicopter platforms in one place,” said Morrison, 29, from Puyallup, Wash. “Each side of the tower helps them with a different aircraft.”
There are three different stations on the fifty-foot tower, where the Marines would “master,” giving instructions on how to rappel to another student on each station. The Marine would then rappel down each station, also known as self-mastering.
“This training will benefit me and my company,” said Sgt. Merwin Caiza-Nunez, a team leader with Lima Company, BLT 3/1. “I’ll be qualified to have my whole company rappel from any bird.”
The course prepares the Marines to not only rappel and fast rope themselves but go back to their units and teach their Marines.
“When I’m done with this course I’ll be a certified HRST Master,” said Cpl. John Espinoza, a team leader with Lima Company, BLT 3/1. “I’ll be able to bring my unit out here and teach them how to fast rope out of [helicopters].”