Whenever U.S. Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare to conduct a mission, a special team of Marines is identified to provide emergency recovery assistance of aircraft or personnel. Often times, these recovery missions require that these Marines fast-rope into hectic situations.
More than 50 Marines of Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/5, 15th MEU, participated in fast-rope sustainment training with the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel Section, 81mm Mortars/Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel Platoon, Dec 29 to 30.
Fast-roping is a tactical maneuver used by helo-borne infantry units to quickly insert themselves into areas where helicopters may not be able to land.
Marines involved in a fast-rope mission are divided into three elements: security, recovery and support. Security acts as the lead element and covers various avenues of approach. Recovery treats any casualties recovered and acts as litter bearers when required. Support provides rear security as well as assists recovery as needed. The fast-rope unit often has attachments, such as intelligence or logistical specialists that vary based on the specific mission.
“Fast-roping is a skill-set that keeps us mission capable,” said Staff Sgt. Clinton W. Thoman, section leader, TRAP section, TRAP Platoon, Weapons Company, BLT 3/5, 15th MEU. “We may have to recover a downed pilot or aircraft, and we need to be prepared to rescue them in a variety of areas to include an open desert, highly-vegetated areas or mountainous terrain,” added the 37-year-old native of Denver.
The unit began their refresher training by fast-roping out of the “hell hole,” an opening large enough for a Marine with gear to pass through, in USS Peleliu’s hangar bay. Each Marine was required to conduct two iterations, one without gear and one with. The following day, the Marines loaded CH-46E Sea Knights with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (Rein.), 15th MEU, to practice fast-roping while the helicopter hovered over the ship’s flight deck. This time, the Marines went with their full combat loads to create a more realistic scenario. Some Marines fast-roped out of the helicopter’s “hell hole,” an exit in the center of the aircraft, and some fast-roped out of the rear of the helicopter. This allowed them the opportunity to practice the two
types of tactical exits they have the ability to conduct.
“Insertion is a small, but crucial part of what we do as a TRAP unit,” said Sgt. Scott W. Gilchrist, the platoon’s recovery team leader, and one of the helicopter rope suspension trainers who facilitated the training. “All in all, I think the Marines had a good time. It was a good way to break up the monotony on the ship,” added the 24-year-old native of Hurst, Texas.
The platoon underwent rigorous training during the fast-rope unit’s workup, but wanted to ensure they stayed brilliant in the basics of their trade. The exercises included training in unfamiliar environments as well as rescuing both downed aircraft and pilots.
The 15th MEU is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group as a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force, providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
Article by Cpl. John Robbart III, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit