ABOARD USS KEARSARGE --
On the flight deck, above the loud roar of helicopters and the buzz of activity on the flight line, the evening sunset casts a golden glow over a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter.
On the inside of the ship, the Marines of Company I, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) ready for a training experience that would put a strong man into a white-knuckle panic.
The Marines were preparing for the final stage of their fast-roping exercise, which involved fast roping out of a helicopter hovering above the moving deck of USS Kearsarge, Aug. 8, 2007.
Fast roping is the act of exiting a helicopter by sliding down a rope. It is a tactical insertion method used to quickly get battle-ready Leathernecks onto rooftops, ships, or landing zones.
The first stage of the exercise, which started three days ago, saw the Marines fast roping out of a stationary helicopter that had its back end hanging over the side of the ship. The Marines slid 30 feet down the rope to the deck below with and without gear.
"It's a lot more shaky fast roping out of a helicopter in the air, that's why its important to do this training in stages,"explained trainer Cpl. Tyler White as he prepared for the next group of Marines. "This gets them more comfortable and confident fast roping out of a hovering helicopter."
This training could come in handy if the Marines of the 22nd MEU(SOC) are required to rapidly deploy the warriors from Company I into an area where a helicopter cannot land.
"This is valuable training,"said White, a salty Devil Dog currently on his third deployment. "The fact is, we have to be prepared for any mission and this is one way to insert troops."
The key to a successful descent is not in how hard you grip the rope, but how well you follow the basics, said White. This means using the proper protective gear, execution and follow through.
Lance Cpl. Nicholas G. Wilborne of Company I, 3rd platoon, 2nd squad, learned the hard way when he came down the rope a bit too fast, falling down when he reached the deck during a descent from the stationary helicopter.
"That really hurt and I don't intend to do it again,"said the unharmed Leatherneck with a smile on his face. "This time I'm actually excited and determined to get it right," he continued before boarding the helicopter again for a chance to perfect his form.
At the end of the day, the training exercise helped the Marines and sailors of BLT 3/8 gear up for any operations they might encounter on this deployment as the Ground Combat Element for the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (SOC). For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC), visit the website www.22meu.usmc.mil.