MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina — Hovering low to the ground is an MV-22B Osprey. Its rotors are blasting the ground directly below shooting rocks, and anything not secured to the ground flying in all directions. A thick rope dangles from the ramp of the aircraft, sporadically whipping around. Two hands reach from the black engulfing the inside of the aircraft. They pull the top of the rope into the darkness, concealing the beginning of it for a few seconds before a Marine comes blasting out of the black and down the rope to the ground below. He falls onto the rope to try and steady it for the next Marines, who follow him down.
Marines attended the Fast Rope Operator Course in order to grasp the fundamentals of Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 5, 2015.
“HRST is used when there is no suitable landing zone to land in,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew S. Francis, a HRST instructor with Expeditionary Operations Training Group ropes and recovery and a Danville, Virginia., native. “HRST is how you would easily insert or extract individuals as needed.”
The course starts in a classroom, covering 14 kinds of knots, standard procedures for fast roping out of a helicopter and the physical portion involving different fast roping techniques.
The goal of the course is for students to grasp the concepts of HRST, take them back to their home units and share the skills they retained with their fellow Marines.
This is the first fast-roping course conducted by the Expeditionary Operations Training Group at Stone Bay.
“In combat situations, fast roping has been used in the tactical recovery of aircraft personnel in Afghanistan,” said Francis.
When an aircraft goes down and the crew goes with it, they are looking for help. Fast roping and recovering aircraft personnel is another example of how Marines utilize this training.
“Having Marines who can effectively fast rope into unknown situations gives the units more opportunities,” said Francis.
Fast roping is very technical. The more you do it, the more you will be comfortable with it in real- life scenarios.
“Many students haven’t participated in this sort of training before,” said Francis. “Marines who have that confidence and knowledge have been using it to help the others.
“Learning how to become a fast-rope operator is why I’m attending this course,” said Sgt. Justin Kelley, a squad leader with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. “We start slow, and then increase with proficiency.”
The absence of a safety harness poses one of the steepest challenges for Marines in the course because of the high safety risk it creates. Marines could potentially fall from the helicopter straight to the ground without the use of a safety harness; it is there for an added layer of protection.
“We fast-rope onto locations that helicopters are incapable of landing on, so we are a force in readiness,” said Kelley. “The Marine Corps adapts and overcomes, and so do we as students. It’s good to see the Marine Corps evolving and continuing to get stronger.”
By Lance Cpl. Immanuel Johnson, Defense Media Activity