MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted Special Patrol Insertion and Extraction training at the Special Operations Training area here June 9. The exercise was part of a two-week Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques course that gives Marines insertion and extraction techniques without requiring the helicopter to land.
Gunnery Sgt. Scott R. McCarthy, chief instructor for the HRST course, explained the course is designed to train unit leaders to rig various helicopters for quick extractions from a hot zone.
“The purpose of HRST is to facilitate the insertion of Marines in an area where helicopter landing is impractical,” he said, “They have to learn all the different systems they’re rigging in the aircraft, a series of knots and take a written test. Once they pass all that, they can come to air week.”
Air week consists of day and night rappels, fast roping, and SPIE rigging operations in confined spaces.
Sgt. Shawn A. Woolsey, a student at the course and section leader with 1st Battalion 2nd Marine Regiment Weapons Company, explained the SPIE system of extraction is a useful tool in jungle environments, spaces too small for a chopper to land and hot zones because “They generally don’t like to get shot at.”
“(Helicopters) don’t want to be on the ground in a danger area any longer than they have to be. It’s got to be a fast extraction,” said Woolsey.
“Basically, we go to a class and they show us how to hook it up, show you how to inspect it and make sure it’s done properly,” said Sgt. James N. Rowland, a student of the course. He plans to use his SPIE training to train his Marines when he goes back to 1/2 Weapons Company, “When we get back, we have courses that require flying helos and stuff like that, so we’ll probably use this.”
The SPIE equipment consists of a rappelling harness, two carabineers and a separate rope wrapped under the armpits and across the chest of the Marine to be extracted. This rig leaves the Marine’s feet and arms free to carry equipment and glide smoothly in the air.
Once the helicopter has taken off and starts to pick up speed, the Marines attached to the SPIE may start to spin in circles on the line. Extending both arms straight out will stop the spinning momentum.
Cpl. Mark A. Robinson participated in the course as well, and observed that once the knots are tight and the Marines are lifted to safety, “You’re basically just dangling on the rope,” until he can set his boots back on the ground.
“I’ve done it multiple times, but I have confidence in my gear, so it’s a lot of fun,” said Robinson.
“It’s an adrenaline rush … in the wind looking down at the trees and water,” said Rowland, “It’s the better part of the training.”