Monday, May 11, 2009

“Strong Hand, Weak Hand, Hook the Foot, Turn and Go”

Story and Photos by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

A combination of Marines and sailors from various units of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted fast-rope training aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) May 9.

These jumps qualify first time fast-ropers while re-qualifying the prior experienced Marines and sailors, whose training must be refreshed every 90 days.

The training package required service members to fast-rope eight times, four of which were ‘slick runs’, carrying only the required eye protection, gloves, and kevlar for safety precautions. Mission essential gear including flacks, kevlars and weapons, along with other unit-specific equipment, was added for their four other jumps.

Two CH-46E “Sea Knight” helicopters were staged on the flight deck so their back ramps overlooked the lowered elevators in the hangar bay. Cpl. Estuardo A. Zamora, one of the helicopter rope suspension technique (HRST) masters and a team leader with Charlie Company, BLT 1/1, positioned himself in one of the helicopters to ensure safety and help Marines through the qualification.
Zamora, a Fort Worth, Texas native, said that first-timers, or those have not practiced in a while, can get nervous before sliding out onto the rope from a height of 45 feet. It takes a few times of jumping for them to get comfortable on the rope and build the confidence to descend quickly and efficiently.

Before each Marine or sailor jumps, Zamora recites the command, “strong hand, weak hand, hook the foot, turn and go,” which reminds jumpers what to do with the sixty-foot, almost 2-inch thick rope sliding quickly between their hands.

“Fast-roping is something different from the everyday life of Marines,” says Gunnery Sgt. Daryl A. Noonan, a North Reading, Mass. native and 81mm mortar platoon sergeant with Weapons Company, BLT 1/1. “It keeps them motivated and proficient.”

1st Lt. Patrick J. Zuber, platoon commander of 81mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, BLT 1/1, 13th MEU, and Boston, Mass. native, gives a safety brief to over 100 Marines and sailors before beginning fast-rope training aboard USS Boxer May 9.

Cpl. Estuardo A. Zamora, helicopter rope suspension technique (HRST) master and team leader with Charlie Company, BLT 1/1, 13th MEU, from Fort Worth, Texas, helps Marines and sailors qualify in fast-roping during the training exercise aboard USS Boxer May 9.

Pfc. Brian P. Ortega, an assistant gunner and mortar man with Charlie Company, BLT 1/1, 13th MEU, from Hemet, Calif., practices proper technique while conducting fast-roping qualifications during a training exercise aboard USS Boxer May 9.

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