22d MEU (SOC) warriors refresh fast-roping skills
story by Cpl. Matthew Kell                                                               

USS NASSAU – As I scooted to the open end of the CH-46 I said a quick prayer that I wouldn’t become one of those “This is why you don’t do this” stories senior Marines often tell. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t have the jitters or butterflies. I’m not afraid of heights. But becoming a safety statistic for the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) isn’t high on my list of priorities.

I joined the Marine Corps to do cool stuff. So when Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/8 asked if I wanted to learn to fast-rope, I was game. Fast-roping is an insertion method that is simply sliding down a thick rope from a hovering helicopter.

According to Helicopter Rappelling Suspension Training (HRST) Master Cpl. Christopher Darwin, it can put a stick of Marines on an objective in less than a minute.

“Fast-roping is another way to get Marines from onboard a helicopter into an objective in the event that a landing is not possible,” said Rainsville, Ala. Marine “It’s a very quick means of insertion.”

Bravo Company had arranged for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-162 (Reinforced) to back one of their CH-46 to the edge of the lowered aft elevator. Before I fast-roped the 40 feet into the hanger bay from the USS Nassau’s flight deck from the back of a Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron – 162’s CH-46 “Phrog,” I went over it went over what we had taught us just minutes before.

The most complicated part was making sure you spin the left side of your body out first so your gear doesn’t catch on the 46’s lowered ramp. Everything else you already learned on your elementary school jungle gym. You grip the rope tight with your feet and holding on with both hands, slide down, spreading your legs wide at the bottom to ensure a solid base to land on.

I was the last person in my stick. “Feet! Hands!” shouted the HRST Master. After I quickly grabbed the rope, he smacked me on the back of the helmet and, sliding off left side first, I was on my way to the hanger bay.

It went off pretty well for my first time. I landed well, my hands weren’t on fire, and I wasn’t a statistic. We slid down six more times and the last few we timed ourselves for speed. My stick of ten Marines had an even mix of fast rope veterans and virgins and we put everybody on the deck in 36 seconds.

“Depending on the Marine, some pick it up fast and other have trouble with techniques,” Darwin said. “But every Marine can master the skill.”

Darwin, BLT 1/8, and HMM-162 (REIN) are deployed with the 22d MEU embarked aboard the USS Nassau, Nashville and Portland on a routine six-month Mediterranean deployment.