CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines of Expeditionary Operations Training Group conducted a Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques course on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Feb. 23 - March 6, 2015, in order for their students to qualify as HRST Masters.
A HRST Master is a Marine who is in charge of a rappelling or fast-roping exercise, explained Sgt. Ilya Bayushkin, a HRST instructor with EOTG and native of Orlando, Florida.
“They are essentially station controllers,” Bayushkin said. “They are responsible for rigging up systems and for their Marines getting from the aircraft to the deck safely.”
There are great tactical advantages to having a unit with HRST capabilities, explained HRST student Capt. Shane Halpern, a platoon commander for Bravo Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team Company, and native of Germantown, Tennessee. One effective way of taking over an enemy building would be to take it from the top down, Halpern said.
“We don’t pick where we fight,” Halpern said. “This course provides me the capabilities to teach my Marines and give my unit the capability to insert or extract where it would be impractical to land a helicopter.”
During the course’s 10 training days, the students, ranging in rank from corporal to captain, learned the intricacies of tying knots and systems, how to be in control on the rappel tower and conducted training out of helicopters at about 60 feet in the air.
The responsibilities of a HRST Master are huge, and mistakes made can cost Marines their lives, explained Bayushkin. The training is considered high risk, and the instructors do not relent. One HRST student, Sgt. Caleb Holsinger, a Fox Company squad leader with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and native of Boise, Idaho, described the course as one of the most stressful times of his life.
“In the test, you only have 8 minutes to put together a system with no mistakes,” Holsinger said. “If you do it wrong, you can put all the tension on one anchor point, and it can rip that anchor point.”
Marine HRST Masters need to be confident in their abilities to stay in control even when the roar of the helicopter and the wind is pounding in their ear, the door is open and the ground is far below. Masters must have the courage to conquer their fear of heights.
“We are making masters here,” Bayushkin said. “If someone is scared of heights, even if he is safe, he’s not going to be able to keep other Marines safe.”
Bayushkin emphasized the importance of confidence and maturity in their students. There is a lot more to being a HRST Master than simply tying knots and rappelling out of an aircraft, explained Bayushkin.
“It’s a leadership course as well,” Bayushkin said. “We need to know that once the Marine graduates the course that he is good to go and conduct that training. He needs to be able to instruct Marines of higher rank and billet than him on what to do because he is the subject-matter expert.”