CAB engineers get hang of rappelling

Submitted by: MCB Camp Butler
Story Identification Number: 20045421259
Story by Cpl. Ryan Walker

CAMP GONSALVES, Okinawa, Japan (April 19, 2004) -- His eyes wide with fear, Lance Cpl. Levon Pennington, peered over his shoulder and realized nothing but a rope was keeping him from falling 70 feet to earth below. With a look of fright in his eyes and determination in his heart, the combat engineer positioned his body to form an L-shape on the skid plate of the rappel point at the Jungle Warfare Training Center here and prepare for his decent.

Pennington, along with 25 Marines from Combat Engineer Company, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, conquered his fears and conducted Helicopter Rope Suspension Training April 19 to train for rapid insertion into a combat zone.

“We never know what type of environment we’ll be operating in,” said 2nd Lt. Alan J. Imperiale, platoon commander. “We don’t know what we’ll be tested with, so I’ve got to make sure my Marines are prepared for whatever comes their way.”

Keeping the gear simple, the Marines constructed field expedient “Swiss seats” by simply wrapping a length of rope around their waist and thigh, using it as a harness to attach a carabineer to the rappelling rope.

“They’re motivated and ready to go. These Marines love to train,” Imperiale said. “They joined the Marine Corps to do high-speed training and that’s what we do.”

Preparing for any situation imaginable, the Marines practiced four different rappelling techniques to prepare them for insertion in a combat zone.

“Basically if they've got an obstacle that is too steep they know how to set up and rappel,” said HRST instructor Navy Lt. Lee H. Shannon, officer in charge, Explosives Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Detachment 5, currently embarked aboard the USS Essex (LHD-2). “It’s a way for them to move gear and people to an area that is inaccessible just by walking.”

With mission accomplishment constantly on the mind of Imperiale, he and his Marines conducted a four-day training cycle at JWTC, to also include land navigation and survival training.

“Right now we’re not involved in a combat mission, so our job is to train and make sure we’re well rounded,” Imperiale said. “We try and incorporate our training for the big picture and get them ready for combat.”

Motivated by the thrill of dangling 70 feet in the air and stopping just a few feet from the ground, Pennington quickly ran back to the rappel point to try one of the other three rappelling techniques: hasty, cliff face and “Hell Hole.”

“Marines do a lot of dangerous training, but they’ve been doing this for years,” Pennington said. “I learned it’s not as bad as it looks, it’s mostly about doing the correct technique.”

CAMP GONSALVES, Okinawa, Japan - Lance Cpl. Kendall S. Boyd, combat engineer, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, locks himself in place for a quick breather during his descent down the cliff face of the rappel point at the Jungle Warfare Training Center April 19.
Photo by: Cpl. Ryan Walker