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A mortarman from 81mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, here, fast ropes out of one of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165’s CH-46E “Sea Knight” helicopters at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sept. 17. The platoon is training to be the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel team during their deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Justis T. Beauregard

White Knights help 2/7 land where helicopters can’t with Fast Roping

17 Sep 2009 | Lance Cpl. Justis T. Beauregard

Putting Marines on a ship full of pirates, rescuing air crew from a crash in a hostile area and clearing a building full of insurgents from the roof down are all scenarios that use fast roping to help Marines complete their mission.  

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165, the “White Knights,” traveled to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., to help Marines conduct fast rope training, Sept. 17.

Mortarmen from 81mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, here, stepped up to the challenge by fast roping from one of the White Knights’ CH-46E “Sea Knight” helicopters.

 “It is a lot of fun to get to work with the grunts,” said Sgt. Christopher D. Johnson, a crew chief with the squadron. “This is where our training really pays off and helps the Marines on the ground.”

Twenty one Marines from 81mm Mortar Platoon fast roped through the rescue hatch of the Sea Knight at a height of about 40 feet.  The Marines started the day with just gloves and kevlar and finished wearing their full combat load, including weapons.

“Getting on the rope is the hardest part,” said Lance Cpl. Jedediah Stock, a mortorman with the platoon. “I’m excited to do the training today, it is similar to the fast rope training at recruit training, but it is higher and from a helicopter.”

Cpl. Jesse Williams, the Helicopter Rope Suspension Training Master for the platoon, ensures the Sea Knight is at the correct height before the Marines get on the rope, and makes sure each Marine goes down correctly. The HRST Master talks directly to the aircrew through the helicopter’s internal communication system, or signals the crew chiefs to make sure his Marines complete the training safely.

The crew chiefs constantly watch the area around the helicopter that the pilots cannot see, making sure the rope is pulled away from the landing zone and ensuring all the Marines are clear before the helicopter lands.

Although the Marines practiced fast roping recently off the tower at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., for many it was the first time training with a helicopter.

“There is a big difference between fast roping off a tower and off the helicopter,” said Staff Sgt. Damon J. Yanez, the platoon sergeant.  “This is the closest training the Marines can get to doing the real thing.”

The platoon is training to prepare them to be the Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel team during their deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in early 2010.

The training also helps the aircrew of the White Knights with their upcoming deployment with the 15th MEU, where they will likely use fast roping to insert Marines onto a ship.

The squadron is also capable of using fast roping to insert Marines in an area where a helicopter can not land, or on top of a building so the Marines can clear the building from the top down, explained Capt. William J. Moran, a pilot with the White Knights.

The training gave the air crew and the 81mm Mortar Platoon the opportunity to combine their individual training to work together on skills they may use during their deployments.

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3rd Marine Aircraft Wing