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CAMP GONSALVES, Okinawa, Japan — Marines with various units of Marine Aircraft Group 36 and Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1 trained at the Jungle Warfare Training Center at Camp Gonsalves July 7.
The units, part of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, performed fast and hasty rappelling and crossed rope bridges as part of a jungle warfare training package.
“The Marines are currently completing a seven-day basic jungle warfare training package,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy H. Davis, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of combat engineer platoon, Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, MAG-36. “Rappelling was the first exercise we completed.”
Marines practice rappelling because there may be situations during combat deployments where having that skill is the difference between staying safe or suffering injury, according to Davis.
The Marines began the day with classes outlining knot-tying techniques.
“We taught the Marines four different knots they would need to use,” said Cpl. Joseph H. Leiding, an assaultman and instructor at the center. “Each knot serves a different purpose.”
The first knot Marines learned was the square knot, which is commonly used to secure rope around an object. The second knot was the around-the-body knot, which is used when crossing a man-made rope bridge. Connected to that knot is the figure-eight knot.
“The figure-eight knot allows Marines to use a climbing clip to attach themselves onto the knot and safety line when crossing obstacles,” said Leiding.
The final knot-tying technique learned was the military rappel seat, which serves as a makeshift harness used to rappel down cliffs.
“The knots we learned will help us in our everyday job,” said Lance Cpl. Harrson H. Burrage, a combat engineer with MWSS-172 and course participant. “They can be used to assist with construction jobs and to help secure pallets together.”
After mastering knots, Marines used their skills to safely rappel down a 70-foot cliff while performing stopping maneuvers.
“As we descended the cliff, we performed three controlled stops,” said Burrage. “We performed these to show we have control of our descent.”
Marines were taught the “3 o’clock method,” during which the rope flows freely, allowing them to start and stop while rappelling down the cliff. The method gets its name from the placement of the brake hand in the 3 o’clock position, or horizontally to the right of their body.
They also learned the “6 o’clock method,” which allows them to rappel faster while still maintaining control. Using this method, the brake hand is moved to the 6 o’clock position, or straight down, to tighten the ropes and stop.
“To have a controlled descent, the Marine can’t hold the rope too tight,” said Leiding. “It not only causes rope burn but also creates a bumpy ride down.”
After each participant practiced fast rappelling, they transitioned into hasty rappelling, which is an improvised method used to descend moderate slopes without the use of a climbing clip.
“Hasty rappelling is difficult for some because they underestimate the hill,” said Davis. “The hill is steeper than they expect, and they try to go too fast.”
The final exercise involved crossing several rope bridges.
To maneuver the bridges, Marines used the around-the-body knot, requiring them to hook onto the safety line and walk across the narrow bridges one foot at a time.
“If there is no other way around, these bridges can be set up during operations to overcome obstacles such as valleys,” said Leiding.
Most of the rappel training is not new for the Marines, but it is important to keep such skills fresh.
“This was a chance for the Marines to get out of their everyday work environment,” said Davis. “They learned individually to overcome their sense of fear and to trust in the skills they had been taught.”