It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s the Marines

Marine Corps Air Station New River
Story by Cpl. Martin Egnash

Date: 03.21.2013
Posted: 04.01.2013 14:05
News ID: 104417
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s the Marines

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - Marines need to respond to any situation the mission demands of them, regardless of the obstacles or terrain.

When Marines have to be somewhere and aircraft are not able to land, Marines use alternative insertion methods like rappelling and fast-roping.

“We don’t always have the ability to dictate where the enemy is,” said Capt. Nate Ross, VMM-263 MV-22B Osprey pilot. “That’s why it’s important to have the ability to insert Marines regardless of the terrain.”

Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, the “Thunder Eagles”, trained with Special Operations Training Group to practice rappelling and fast-roping techniques, March 21.

The VMM-263 Marines flew three groups of seven SOTG Marines through numerous insertions, starting with rappelling.

“Think of rappelling like climbing a mountain,” said Ross. “It’s a quick process, but the Marines can take their time and bring a fair amount of equipment with them.”

According to Ross, rappelling is the preferred method of alternate insertion to use when an aircraft is unable to land due to ground conditions, such as urban obstructions or steep inclines.

When Marines rappel, they are fitted to the rope with their gear and belay themselves down. During this process, they can speed up, slow down or even stop.

Not so with fast-roping.

“Fast-roping is the high-speed version of rappelling,” said Ross. “Marines grab onto a rope and slide down from the aircraft.”

The Marines wear special gloves to protect their hands during their speedy descents.

Though the fast-roping Marines cannot carry nearly as much gear with them as they could with rappelling, fast-roping has a distinct tactical advantage.

“When speed is of the essence, and we need Marines in an area as soon as possible, fast-roping is the best option,” said Cpl. Bryce Buss, VMM-263 Osprey crew chief. “Having the ability to do this can give us the element of surprise. Before the enemy knows what’s going on, Marines are on the ground providing cover fire.”