MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Dark Horse Marines recently conducted fast rope training from CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters in preparation for a 2014 deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, an amphibious Marine Air Ground Task Force based in Okinawa, Japan.
The 31st MEU is scheduled to depart next spring for a deployment to the Asia-Pacific region as part of an amphibious ready group, where they will provide a forward presence and be prepared to respond to any crisis at a moment’s notice. The fast rope training reinforced the Marines’ ability to rapidly deploy from ship to shore when conditions prevent aircraft from landing on site.
Fast roping is a method of swiftly inserting troops into an area by air. If inaccessible terrain or enemy forces prevent an aircraft from landing, fast roping gives the Marines the speed and mobility to get in and secure an objective, said Cpl. Joseph E. Lechnar, a squad leader and helicopter rope suspension techniques master serving with, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment.
According to Lechnar, fast roping allows Marines to respond to crises as a quick reaction force, conduct missions requiring stealth and board vessels while at sea.
During fast roping, Marines drop a heavy rope out the back or middle of the aircraft while it hovers between 15 to 40 feet above the ground. One by one, Marines grab the rope tightly, wrap their feet around and slide down, supported completely by themselves. A company of Marines can quickly enter an objective area and begin ground operations.
Lechnar, a native of Joliet, Ill., said the training can be intimidating for new Marines. As a HRST master, he trains and supervises Marines during fast rope exercises. He drops the rope and individually signals each Marine to descend, and he notices common responses to the training.
“My biggest concern for new Marines is their fear of heights,” said Lechnar, a 2009 graduate of Joliet Central High School. “Once they get to that rope, they look down and say, ‘Man, I really don’t want to go down that rope.’ Afterward, they feel great, like they conquered something.”
As they build their confidence and proficiency, the Marines of Kilo Co. will practice fast roping under more complex conditions, such as night movements, ship to shore, and even ship to ship as they assume their role as helicopter company for the 31st MEU.
The ability to move Marines from ship to shore using fast roping gives the nation a strategic advantage, especially when the Marine Corps employs tilt-rotor, MV-22 Ospreys with greater range and speed than traditional helicopters, said 2nd Lt. Andrew K. Hotsko, a platoon commander serving with Kilo Co.
“We’ve been fighting a very asymmetric enemy, and we’ve seen embassies get hit,” said Hotsko, a native of Panama City and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. “If we have a MEU sitting off the coast, it’s important for us to be able to protect our interests. Launching from miles off the coast and going to reinforce an embassy with a conventional force is one way of doing that.”
As the Marines depart with the 31st MEU and support the U.S. strategic pivot to Asia, fast roping is a tool allowing Marines quick access to an objective, bypassing obstacles and allowing the Navy and Marine Corps to project power from the sea. It is another capability that reinforces the Corps’ role as a force in readiness.