PACIFIC OCEAN --
Marines and sailors serving with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element slid 35 feet down a thick, plaited rope rigged to a parked helicopter on the amphibious assault ship Makin Island miles off Southern California’s coast Sept 8.
The training simulated a technique for inserting a company-sized force into an objective area.
“When we’re inserting by air – in six or eight aircraft – fast-roping from helicopters is the answer if we encounter a fouled (landing zone), be it debris or obstacles, or we’re restricted from landing in an urban environment,” said Company I executive officer and Boston native 1st Lt. Matthew Astphan. “And if we’re proficient enough, it’s actually faster to rope down into multiple sites without the pilots having to land.”
Company I is one of three rifles companies in Battalion Landing Team 3/1 and serves primarily as a dedicated helicopter-borne raid force.
Astphan said two of the company’s platoons fast-roped from helicopters in July, descending from altitudes as high as 50 feet.
“By practicing and rehearsing, we’ll get better at fast-roping,” said Sgt. Jeffrey Draney, a helicopter rope-suspension technique master with the company. “This training will enable the Marines to prepare for the upcoming deployment and whatever the MEU may be tasked with.”
The unit began conducting a second sea-based exercise Sept. 1, its second since becoming a complete Marine-air ground task force in May.