MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. August 19, 2015 — Twelve Marines sat buckled into chairs mounted around the cabin of a CH53-E helicopter as it hovered 30 feet above the ground. The helicopter?s crew chief took his position at the center of two long rows of seats, standing over a large cutout in the floor?referred to as the ?hellhole?? looking for the sign to begin training. He motioned for another Marine to push a coiled green rope through the hole to the ground below.
?Team one on me,? shouted one of the reconnaissance team leaders, calling his crew to stand up ready to leap from the bird.
?Grab high and slide!”
One after another, U.S. Marines with the Force Reconnaissance Detachment and Battalion Landing Team 2/1, honed their skills with fast rope training at Landing Zone 53 aboard Camp Pendleton Aug. 12, 2015. These Marines, along with the aircrew from Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 166 (Reinforced) (VMM-166 (REIN)), are slated to deploy with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Western Pacific.
?If we have to get Marines into a position quickly, insertion by fast roping is one of the best ways to do it,? said Capt. Bradley Fromm, commander of the 13th MEU?s Force Reconnaissance Detachment. ?It puts Marines where you need them precisely when you need them.?
According to Fromm, Marines inserted via fast roping are instantly assets in the fight and can begin to put rounds downrange at the enemy or begin assisting evacuations immediately. That firepower can become even more effective when combined with the weapons arsenal of the insertion aircraft.
?You?re putting 15 more Marines on the landing zone in less than two minutes? that?s 15 more professionals prepared to complete any task,? Fromm said. ?That kind of flexibility is invaluable on any mission and that?s what keeps us relevant as a Corps.?
Leaping from aircraft for training comes with risks, though they are balanced by placing qualified Marines in supervisor and safety positions. Marines like Cpl. Daniel Sessman, a HRST Master and seasoned fast roper, guide trainees to the hellhole shouting directions before and during their slide.
?The biggest thing I remind them is to never let go of the rope,? said Sessman. ?It?s your lifeline until you?ve got .?
With the combination of VMM-166 (REIN)?s high flying and Battalion Landing Team 2/1?s rope suspension techniques, the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit?s toolbox is well stocked with tools for any clime and place.