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Scout Snipers and Marines with VMM-164 Conduct Initial Fast-Rope Training

By Sgt. Lillian Stephens
United States Marine Corps

July 9, 2016 - Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 164 “Knightriders” supported initial fast-rope training with scout snipers of 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, June 30, 2016.

During the training, the scout snipers secured a rope to an MV-22B Osprey with VMM-164, boarded the aircraft and slid to the ground while the Osprey hovered 30 to 50 feet above a landing zone.

“It just opens up the spectrum of where we can go, where we can hit the enemy,” said Sgt. Nathaniel Young, a scout sniper and team leader with 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, Weapons Company, Scout Sniper Platoon, and a Twin Falls, Idaho, native. “Normally the [aircraft] would land on the ground and we’d get out, but if there are tree tops that we have to go through, then we would insert via fast rope above the tree line.”

According to Capt. Scott Courtney, an Osprey pilot and adjutant with VMM-164, and a Littleton, Colo., native, the ability to insert into various environments by fast roping contributes to the Marine Corps’ expeditionary nature.

“As a scout sniper platoon, we’re the [reconnaissance and surveillance] asset that’s based with the battalion itself,” said Young. “When the company or the battalion is doing any operation, we’re put forward [to] be the eyes, ears and trigger fingers of any operation.”

This training was particularly important for VMM-164 because it was among the first training exercises supported by the squadron since achieving initial operating capability in June 2016.

“It’s significant for the squadron that we’re actually getting syllabus training,” said Courtney. “It was definitely good all around to not only support the ground unit and get them what they needed, but it greatly facilitated our training as well.”

Fast-rope training allows pilots and aircrew to practice a precision flight and hover repeatedly, which correlates to other abilities such as external lifts with cargo or equipment, said Courtney.

“There’s a big difference in going out to a pad and hovering in one spot and kind of practicing with nobody out there,” said Courtney. “When you have Marines coming down that rope in the back it brings that focus and makes the training that much more realistic.”

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