CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan --
Marines rappelled, fast-roped and performed Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction training as part of the Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques Course Aug. 19-20 at the Central Training Area near Camp Hansen, Okinawa.
The 11-day course is broken up into two segments. The first is tower week, where the students first familiarize themselves with the knots and techniques used in SPIE. The second is called aviation week, when the students finalize their training by combining all the skills they have learned throughout the course, and rappel out of the aircraft.
The techniques the students learned throughout the course are used for inserting and extracting from places where aircraft cannot land. The SPIE rig involves the students attaching to one rope and hanging from the aircraft as a group.
“At this portion of the course the students have already developed confidence from tower week, passed the assessments on the knots, and all the tower rigging systems,” said Maj. Breck Perry, the officer in charge of the course with Special Operations Training Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, III MEF. “Aviation week is where it all comes together.”
The students conducted the rappels during the day and at night using aircrafts such as the CH-53E Super Stallion Helicopter, UH-1N Huey, and the MV-22B Osprey to vary the techniques the students use under heavy rotor wash.
“The rotor wash of the MV-22B Osprey is a lot more aggressive, and it blows the students around a little bit more,” said Perry, a Fredericksburg, Virginia, native.
Rotor wash is created by the aircrafts blades, pushing air to the ground. The powerful wind challenges students to maintain their balance and keep control of the ropes when they rappel down or hook on to the rope for a SPIE rig.
Safety is paramount during practical application. Before every rappel the students take turns acting as a HRST master, guiding the other students step-by-step through the rappel to ensure they go down safely, according to Sgt. Geoffrey P. Mann, a HRST instructor with SOTG.
“(The students) get the practice out of mastering people down,” said Mann, an Orlando, Florida, native. “Then they get the experience of going out of an actual (aircraft).
After the Marines conducted the practical application on the aircraft, they will move on to one more written evaluation and become HRST masters, according to Mann.
“HRST, to me, is taking the skills I have learned and sending Marines out of a helicopter or down a wall, and being confident in knowing that my anchor points are set and that I am going to send them down safely at all times,” said Sgt. Brett Marcinik, a rifleman with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the unit deployment program.
Overall, the students benefited from the course and are now more confident and capable of performing aircraft insertions, according to Mann.
“It was a blast, the adrenaline rush and the realism of the training made it fun,” said Marcinik, a Melbourne, Florida, native. “Overall, this is more beneficial than doing it in the tower because we are actually conducting HRST on the helicopter.”