Infantry Marines with 31st MEU drop in for fast-rope training
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa - Hearts racing, but with steady hands, the Marines grasped the rope that dangled from the helicopter hovering 30 feet in the air. Relying on their training, they took the plunge.
More than 100 Marines with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, executed helicopter rope suspension training with the support of CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 Jan. 8 on Camp Hansen.
The helicopters and crew with HMH-463, are currently assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, III Marine Expeditionary Force, under the unit deployment program.
The infantrymen of 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, are currently assigned to the 31st MEU, III MEF, under the UDP.
Helicopter rope suspension training is essential for infantry Marines, equipping them with the skill set needed for tactical insertion into areas without the need for the aircraft to touch down, according to Sgt. Gregory J. Dominguez, a machine gun section leader with the battalion.
“We’re practicing fast-roping for insertion capabilities by (simulating) a raid objective, coming around the target, and fast-roping in by surprise,” said Dominguez. “It gives us a quick insertion on the ground. That way we can jump in, complete the task, and move into another position.”
For some of the Marines involved, the training marked the first use of the essential technique, according to 1st Lt. Thomas G. Scovel, an infantry officer with the battalion.
“It’s important for our Marines to gain familiarity with the aviation combat element while they’re with the MEU,” said Scovel. “For some of them, it’s their first time fast-roping while on Okinawa.”
This vital training is indispensable for infantry Marines to maintain mission readiness, according to Dominguez.
“It’s important for the Marines to be comfortable with their gear coming down (the rope),” said Dominguez. “In a hostile environment, they can’t be scared of coming down from the helicopter. They have to be focused.”
Supporting the Marines’ training also assisted the helicopter pilots with keeping their own skills sharp, according to Maj. Neil E. Oswald, a pilot with the squadron.
“Doing fast-roping requires us to keep a precision hover,” said Oswald. “Precision hovers are used for the rapid insertions, rappelling, (special purpose insertion/extraction) and fast-roping. We also use them for externals, where we hover over a load, either a Humvee or an artillery piece, and maintain a very precise hover as the (Marines on the ground) attach our hooks to the cargo.”
After gaining familiarity with the rope by executing the maneuver while wearing minimal equipment, the Marines then rappelled with a full pack and weapon.
The Marines need to be as comfortable as possible with the techniques because a crisis or contingency can arise at a moment’s notice in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Dominguez.
“It’s not hard, as long as you practice,” said Dominguez. “When you practice and you’re comfortable with all the equipment, your job, everything really becomes second nature.”