Marines fall for 26th MEU

17 Jun 2002 | Sgt. Roman Yurek

Over the city, a helicopter hovers above a building.  Seconds later, two ropes come hurdling out of the aircraft and just as the ropes touch down, two Marines follow.

Though this feat may seem dangerous to some, to the Marines it is just another way to adapt when an area is not suitable to use as a landing zone.

To acquire the skills of inserting and extracting from an area when landing an aircraft is not possible, nearly 20 Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit attended the Helicopter Ropes Suspension Training Course, June 10-21.

"The HRST gives the MEU commander more means of insertion and extraction of his Marines while deployed," said Staff Sgt. Jim Boutin, lead instructor for the HRST Section of the Special Operations Training Group.

During the two-week course, Marines learned to repel, fast rope and Special Insertion and Extraction.  They also learned how to operate from three different helos, the CH-46E "Sea Knight," UH-1N "Huey" and the CH-53E "Super Stallion," all from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264 (Reinforced) "Black Knights".

The Marines trained during the day and at night, trying to resemble a real-world situation as much as possible.

If an embassy comes under attack and the local police cannot keep the rioters back, it is the mission of the MEU to secure the area.  Exiting down a rope from a helo may be the only way the Marines can get into the embassy to do their job.  With the HRST course under their belt, this is just another "day at the office."

"This is a really great course," said Cpl. Tony Russo, a radio operator for Charlie Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Detachment.  "They teach us a lot of information for the amount of time allotted."

During the two weeks, Marines have to learn how to tie a variety of knots, how to put together a harness and how to execute each exercise safely.

One thing Marines have built a reputation on is the ability to adapt and overcome.  Even with the condensed time frame, instructors were still able to pass all the necessary information to the Marines.

After learning how to get from the air to the ground, the Marines had to learn how to get from the ground to the air in an area where the helicopter cannot land, similar to a jungle.

This extraction is called SPIE.  A rope is dropped to a squad of Marines on the ground.  One by one, they attach a carabineer clip to a designated loop tied to the rope.  When all the leathernecks are hooked up, the helo begins its ascent.

Subsequently the Marines become airborne and can be safely taken out of a jungle and back to base camp or secure area.

With this training complete, the 26th MEU is one step closer to achieving its special operations capable status.