News: HMH-464, 2nd Recon perform SPIE rigging
Story by Lance Cpl. Ryan Joyner
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 helped Marines of Company C, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, conduct special purpose insertion and extraction rigging training aboard Camp Lejeune, March 13.
While the sight of helicopters flying over Marine Corps Air Station New River and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is quite common, Marines hanging from a rope during the flight is not.
Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 helped Marines of Company C, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, conduct special purpose insertion and extraction rigging training aboard Camp Lejeune, March 13.
For the majority of the pilots and crew of the two CH-53E Super Stallions, it was their first time flying a SPIE-rigging flight.
“Fast-roping is more common. We do not do SPIE-rigging flights that often,” said Sgt. Michael K. Williams, HMH-464 Super Stallion crew chief.
The reconnaissance Marines wore harnesses attached to a 125-foot long, inch-thick rope suspended from the helicopter.
“Safety considerations go through the roof. We have to be real careful because they are hanging 125 feet below the aircraft,” said Capt. Samuel F. Zasadny, HMH-464 Super Stallion pilot. “We have to go straight up 100 feet above the trees before we even start moving forward.”
After the Marines connected their harnesses to the rope, the Super Stallion hovered slowly above the ground and increased altitude. The Marines ran forward as the rope was lifted until they were completely under the CH-53E and their feet had left the ground.
“It was 60 to 70 degrees out there and we were flying at 80-90 miles an hour so it gets kind of cold. We went pretty slowly so they did not get too uncomfortable,” said Zasadny.
The helicopter rope suspension training master from 2nd Recon Bn. and the crew chiefs aboard the helicopter laid on their chests while looking through the observation hole in the floor of the aircraft, ensuring the Marines suspended below were in no danger of colliding with trees or other obstacles.
They also constantly checked and maintained the suspension gear to keep everything safe in addition to their normal crew chief duties.
“A lot of crew coordination is needed to make sure it gets done safely,” said Zasadny.
The Marines were inserted and extracted several times without their weapons or packs to re-familiarize themselves before performing the training with the added difficulty from the weight of their gear on the last rotation.
After the final insertion and extraction, the CH-53Es landed one last time for the reconnaissance Marines to load up their ropes and gear from the helicopters.
“Everything went smoothly and without any incidents. I know we and 2nd Recon got a lot of good training out it,” said Zasadny.