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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

3280 Russell Road, 2nd Floor Quantico, Va. 22134
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Rappel tower tests recruits’ will, guts

By Lance Cpl. Robert W. Beaver | | August 11, 2006

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO -- As a young recruit peeks over the rappel tower’s edge, his forehead begins to perspire and his limbs begin to shake. The recruit knows he must face his fear of heights as he knows the only way off this obstacle is straight down.

He gets into position with his toes on the edge and his heels facing away from the tower. In a matter of seconds, he rappels safely to the ground.

With a little more than a week left until graduation, recruits are challenged with the depot’s 60-foot-tall rappel tower. Recruits get the opportunity to become familiar with rappelling through a basic course.

“During this training evolution, the recruits learn the basics of rappelling,” said Staff Sgt. Rafael Trevino, an instructor with instructional training company. “This also helps some of them overcome their fear of heights, and it allows them to gain trust in their equipment. This obstacle is definitely a confidence builder.”

Recruits learn the proper techniques for rappelling as well as how to create the safety harness that will hold them safely when rappelling.

The harness is made using a six-foot rope that is wrapped around the legs and hips. Then it is secured by a series of square knots.

On the modern battlefield, wars are fought in urban areas. The best way to secure a building is from the top to the bottom as it throws the enemy off, according to Sgt. Juan Lopez, an instructor with Instructional Training Company.

Recruits get the opportunity to learn several different rappelling techniques. Fast roping, wall rappelling and descending a simulated helicopter hell hole are the three different training scenarios featured on the tower.

Fast roping, a method used for quick insertion on an objective from a helicopter, is the first technique recruits learn during this training phase. Sliding down 15 feet of rope to the ground, the fast technique is similar to the way a fire fighter slides down a pole during an emergency.

The recruits must do their part when sliding down the rope to quickly clear the landing zone to prevent being landed on by the following recruit.

Each recruit has the opportunity to experience fast roping during boot camp; however, they may not have the chance to do both of the other methods due to the short amount of time for the training evolution, according to Trevino.

Like the fast rope technique, the hell hole is used for fast insertion from a helicopter. The term hell hole refers to the hole in a helicopter’s fuselage. But unlike fast roping, hell hole insertion is used with safety equipment and is done at a higher altitude. This version of rappelling is a vertical drop from the top of the tower.

The other technique recruits may learn is the wall rappel. This method is also used with safety equipment, and simulates rappelling down the side of a building.

Recruits are issued the respective safety gear prior to the training evolution. With the assistance of a tactical helmet, gloves, ropes, carabiner and a spotter, recruits make their descent safely to the ground.

Although this training only gives recruits the basics, it will benefit them later when they continue this training while they are in the Fleet Marine Force, according Trevino.

During the one-day course, recruits learn three different techniques of rappelling. Although some recruits will not be in combat units, there’s always a chance they may be called to fulfill the duty of every Marine and be a rifleman.


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