MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Dust, dirt and rocks kick up as the propellers of an MV-22B Osprey begin spinning as it lifts straight up into the sky. A long, thick rope is dropped out the back ramp of the aircraft and hits the ground. The Marines grip the rope and ready themselves to slide down.
In preparation for their crisis-response deployment and support of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment conducted a fast-rope training exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 8, 2015.
“We are familiarizing ourselves and getting comfortable with fast-roping for our upcoming crisis-response mission,” said 1st Lt. Bryan Bathauer, the commander of 2nd Platoon, Lima Co., 3/8, and native of Chicago, Illinois. “We want to be able to execute this task safely and efficiently, so we are getting a lot of hands-on training with an Osprey. We’re using the crawl, walk, run method.”
Before being able to fast-rope out of an aircraft, Marines first had to prove their proficiency with a stagnant rope off a tower. The next step for the Marines was to fast-rope out of an aircraft while being subjected to rotor winds. Then the training concludes with fast-roping with full combat gear: plate carrier, pack and rifle.
“My first time, I was terrified, but doing it so repetitively helped me get over my fear and be extremely comfortable,” said Cpl. Seth Gurung, a squad leader with 2nd Plt. “I want to pass down everything I know to my Marines and the company.”
Now a certified helicopter rope suspension techniques master, he has overcome his anxiety and hopes to help others do the same.
“A lot of people have that fear of heights. Once they get in that aircraft and they’re standing up there holding the rope and looking down, that first leap of faith is a big accomplishment. It’s a confidence booster,” said Gurung, a native of Alliance, Ohio. “Once they have that confidence, they can see how it can be applied in a real scenario. It gets Marines in quick without having to land an aircraft and put them in danger.”
Training how to fast-rope from an aircraft prepares them for the possibilities of the deployment, according to Gurung. This gives the Marines another asset to be able to do a quick insertion depending on where they go and what they do.
“We did well. I think we took some pretty big steps forward today,” Bathauer said.
This week, Lima Co. spent two days in the field. On top of conducting fast-rope drills with the Osprey, the Marines also conducted an unknown distance range with the M16A4 service rifle, M4 carbine rifle and M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, testing their ability to adjust to the enemy at distances varying from 50 to 600 meters with different weapon systems. The variety of training sharpens the various skills of the company making them a well-rounded asset for the SP-MAGTF during their upcoming deployment.