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HRST students learn the ropes

18 Mar 2009 | Lance Cpl. Jeremy Fasci

Servicemembers from across the country are learning the ropes of helicopter operations from the Helicopter Rope Suspension Training Course at 1st Marine Division Schools here Mar. 18.

The knowledge taught at the two-week course gives students the ability to safely perform helicopter operations.

“This course gives a commander the option to insert or extract a unit during an operation using helicopters,” said Sgt. John R. Direnzo, 24, an instructor for the HRST course,from Cache, Okla.

The lessons are specifically designed for students who will use the skills during combat operations with their unit.

“The course is primarily geared toward servicemembers in the (infantry) field, because students must have a statement from their unit saying that they will be performing helicopter operations to be able to go through the course,” said Staff Sgt. Adrian R. Gomez, 35, the chief instructor for the course, from Marfa, Texas.

During the course, students learn knot-tying, fast-roping techniques, rapelling techniques and special patrol insertion and extraction systems operations.

The procedure is the process of attaching servicemembers to a 120-foot rope for extraction or insertionfrom an area of operations. This is used when it is not feasible for a helicopter to land because of obstructions on the site.

“SPIE rigging is going to be the most fun for me because it is the only thing in the course I have not done yet,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert J. Richmond, 41, a student and member of Company A, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group, from Huntington Beach, Calif.

This HRST course is one of only three that the Marine Corps conducts.The others are located in Camp Lejuene, N.C., and Okinawa, Japan, and there are students from units in every branch of the armed services attending the three schools.

Constantly refining the skills learned in the course is vital for the servicemembers when they graduate and go back to their respective commands.

“In this job, knowing the knots taught during the course is important because one wrong move and someone could get seriously injured, if not killed,” said Sgt. Macario Godinez, 24, a student in the course and police sergeant for 1st Marine Division Schools, from Victoria, Texas.

Instructors from the course also teach drill instructors from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.

“We also perform mobile training teams once every three months to teach drill instructors the knowledge from the course,” said Gomez. “The drill instructors are only qualified to teach static rope operations, which gives them the ability to supervise recruits repelling from a tower.”

Instructors give their full time and attention to ensure HRST students are tactically proficient at helicopter operations.

“There is no excuse to fail the course because of not knowing the knowledge taught during the course,” said Richmond. “The instructors will put in extra time to help students who are struggling.”