MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
In a sign of its ever-advancing capabilities, Marines from 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command conducted the first MARSOC Helicopter Rope Suspension Training Masters course at Camp Margarita, aboard Camp Pendleton, Oct. 27 to Nov. 7.
Before implementation of the new course, operators with MARSOC relied on Division Schools and Special Operations Training Groups to certify their Marines as HRST Masters. Seats in the training are often scheduled months in advance and can sometimes be difficult to obtain because those schools have the responsibility of training all HRST Masters in the Marine Corps.
With the new course in place, MARSOC is now more self sufficient and will no longer have to rely heavily on other commands to certify operators as HRST Masters before deployments, according to Staff Sgt. Scott A. Pettus, MARSOC HRST Master course lead instructor.
“Now, I can certify people within my own command,” Pettus said. “It is more efficient because now we don’t have to compete with any other units for school seats. It is all in-house now.”
While the future of the new course is still uncertain, Pettus said the Marines plan to make it a permanent part of their pre-deployment training.
“Nothing’s been set in stone, but our plan is to run one HRST Masters course per company workup,” he said.
The course criteria focuses on all things HRST, which includes rappelling, fast roping and Special Purpose Insertion/Extraction rigging. The Marines must pass a knot test, which includes tying 15 different knots with a perfect score, as well as a rigging and a written test before they move on to the practical application part of the course.
“Because the Marines' lives are in our hands, it is important we know the course content thoroughly,” said Staff Sgt. Ramon Navarro, a student in the course with MARSOC. “The people we are responsible for need to be able to trust us.”
In the final week of the course, the Marines conducted each method of helicopter rope suspension techniques before becoming certified HRST Masters. The course instructors evaluate the students’ abilities during this portion to ensure they are capable of conducting and teaching HRST.
“HRST allows us to insert and extract troops in conditions where we can’t land a (helicopter) in the area,” Pettus said. “This is probably one of the most dangerous things we do. If a [HRST] Master doesn’t know what he is doing, he is not going to be able to teach his guys (properly) and people are going to get hurt.”
Once these Marines become HRST Masters, they can go back to their teams and conduct training to make their Marines more proficient in HRST and increase the teams overall combat readiness, he said.