Camp Pendleton Marines keep combat skills sharp with fast rope exercise in Pacific Ocean
Staff Sgt. Sergio Jimenez

ABOARD USS TARAWA(Nov. 19, 2007) -- Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) took advantage of picture-perfect weather in the Pacific Ocean to practice what they do best, get into the fight quickly.

Reconnaissance and infantry Marines from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, sharpened their combat skills by fast roping from a CH-46E Sea Knight onto the flight deck of USS Tarawa (LHA 1) this week.

The Marines from 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, and grunts from Company C, BLT 1/5 took part in safety classes and practiced exiting from a static helicopter before going up on the Sea Knight.

Charlie Company, the BLT 1/5’s helicopter assault company and the MEU’s Force Recon platoon are tasked with conducting rapid reaction missions that require insertion into locations where a landing is not possible due to the terrain or a hostile combat environment.

Inside the helo and hovering 20-40 feet in the air, the Marines rechecked their gear and received final instructions from their trainers. The pilots maneuvered the aircraft to stay above and unison with the still-moving amphibious ship below before dropping a rope onto the deck.

The Marines had little room for error and with a mile-deep ocean surrounding them, one-by-one the Marines slid down quickly onto the deck and established security.

This week’s fast rope exercise not only helped the infantry and recon Marines stay sharp, they also allowed Marine pilots gain experience deploying combat troops rapidly in missions where the element of surprise is required.

The Sea Knights are from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (Reinforced), Marine Corps Air Station, San Diego. HMM-166 (REIN) serves as the MEU’s aviation combat element while BLT 1/5 serves as the MEU’s ground combat element. The MEU is a Marine Air Ground Task Force and is capable of conducting a variety of missions including noncombatant evacuations, humanitarian assistance operations and combat operations. It is composed of a reinforced infantry battalion, reinforced medium helicopter squadron, a combat logistics element and a command element. The 11th MEU (SOC) is commanded by Col. John W. Bullard.

The exercise is one a many the Marines and Sailors of the MEU will do during a deployment that will take them throughout the Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf region.

For more information about the 11th MEU (SOC) visit their website at