ABOARD THE USS TARAWA -- “Fast roping is a technique Marines use to insert on a ground where helicopters cannot land,” began Capt. Ted Greeley, commander, Golf Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.
Greeley, a Golden, Colo. native, was observing his Marines leaping from the tail of a helicopter, simultaneously grasping onto rope with their hands and feet, sliding down with blinding speed and landing with the grace of cats. “It’s fun,” he added.
Marines from Co. G, took time Sunday morning to brush up on their fast roping skills during a flight deck training session.
BLT 2/1 is the ground combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), which is currently underway on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment.
During a time normally reserved for gaining a few hours of much needed rest aboard the Tarawa, Co. G Marines shuffled up the steep ramps leading through the hangar bay and onto the ship’s flight deck.
A CH-46E Sea Knight, courtesy of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (reinforced), was rigged by the Co. G Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques Master instructor Sgt. David Jones.
Jones, a Washington, D.C., native, gave a safety brief and demonstration to the Marines of Co. G-- many recent graduates of the School of Infantry.
Within minutes of the instructor’s class, Marines were breaking off into “sticks,” or sections of twelve and lining up to meet the challenge.
Staff Sgt. Chad Mckee, a Buffalo, N.Y. native, said he definitely thought the training event
“I’m glad we did it because this helps us know the fears of our Marines, and now we can help conquer them,” said Mckee. “And,” added the platoon sergeant, “a lot of the Marines haven’t done this since boot camp.”
One of those Marines in particular, Pfc. Barry Lien from Elk Mountain, Wyo., said he wasn’t nervous at all as he waited to take the 50-foot vertical slide. Lien, a rifleman with Co. G, said, “They showed us everything we need to know, so there’s no need to be nervous. I’m excited.”
Sergeant David Jones, a Washington, D.C., native, who was practically hanging out of the back of the CH-46, rigged with a “gunner’s belt” for safety, observed Marines’ descents and gave the commands of “strong hand! Weak hand! Hook your foot, turn and go!”
One-by-one, Marines dropped from the flight deck into the hangar bay. Jones directed the Marines down the rope by shouting, “Look at the deck. Look at the deck! I don’t know why you’re not looking at the deck!”
Jones then turned his attention to the next Marines in the helicopter waiting their turn, and kindly reassure them that by keeping their eyes on the landing area, they could control their descent and come off the rope better.
Adrenaline levels were peaking throughout the training, an opportunity Lance Cpl. Stephen Bray felt would further prepare the Marines of Co. G for future global operations during the deployment. “Most importantly,” said Bray, “It raises moral and proficiency.”
Bray, a squad leader with 2nd platoon, Co. G said that long days on the ship were beginning to take a toll on his Marines, and that the training was a chance to clear everyone’s minds and refocus them on their purpose within the 13th MEU (SOC).
“It feels like we’re actually getting to do our job, instead of just working out in the gym all day. We get to be grunts,” he remarked.
For more information about the Warriors of Battalion Landing Team 2/1 and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.