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Marines from Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Divison, I Marine Expeditionary Force, are suspended from a UH-1Y Huey helicopter during an exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 18, 2015. Utilizing both fast-roping and Special Patrol Insertion and Extraction rigging methods, the purpose of the training exercise was to integrate operational coordination between the I MEF Ground Combat Element and Air Combat Element.

Photo by Pfc. Devan Gowans

Recon Marines hang with HMLA 369

25 Aug 2015 | Pfc. Devan Gowans 1st Marine Division

As clouds of dust from the rotor wash of a UH-1Y Huey helicopter cleared and Marines dismounted the fast-rope, Gunnery Sgt. Brett Lane, a platoon sergeant with Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, charges through the wash to clear the cable from the landing zone.

Approximately 40 Marines with Company A conducted a fast-rope and Special Patrol Insertion and Extraction rigging exercise aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 18, 2015.

The purpose of the exercise was to familiarize reconnaissance Marines with insertion methods and allow them to become more comfortable working with the Air Combat Element of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

Medium Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 piloted two UH-1Y Huey helicopters to assist in the fast-roping and SPIE rigging operations.

Sticks of Marines entered the Huey helicopters and waited in the hovering aircraft before practicing insertion by the fast-rope method.

Following this portion of the training, the Marines hooked onto a SPIE cable by pairs and suspended from the helicopter as it flew a route around the training area. The SPIE rigging is set up to free the Marines’ arms, allowing them to hold onto extra gear while inserting into difficult terrain. Once the Marines touched down, they cleared the landing zone to allow the helicopter to land.

According to Lance Cpl. Mark Toub, a team member with the company, the reconnaissance Marines’ operations may require the need for quick insertion and extraction into inaccessible terrain. SPIE rigging and fast-roping techniques create a solution for the rapid deployment of troops into areas where aircraft and other vehicles cannot go.

Because the Ground Combat Element and Air Combat Element rely on the support of each other in many operations, insertion and extraction training allows for pilots and crew chiefs to understand what it’s like flying with members of the ground units.

Sergeant Dakota Moist, a UH-1Y Huey crew chief with HMLA 369, served as a crew chief for one of the aircraft during the operation. His tasks were to conduct the string of events occurring inside the aircraft, eliminating any problems that arise inside the cabin and ensuring that all Marines exited the helicopter safely once given the command.

“There’s a lot for the air wing to gain from working with ground troops,” Moist said. “It’s a lot more realistic and it allows some of the junior crew chiefs who haven’t deployed to see what it’s like to work with these ground units.”

Training exercises involving insertion and extraction tactics help foster a well-coordinated training environment and sharpen, as well as increase, the operational readiness of the Ground Combat Element and Air Combat Element of I Marine 

1st Marine Division