SOUDA BAY, Crete (NNS) — Maritime interdiction operations (MIO) teams from five multi-national participants conducted a fast-rope exercise from the Royal Moroccan navy ship Hassan II, as part of the Phoenix Express 2011 (PE-11) in-port training phase, June 4.
Spanish, Moroccan, Maltese, Algerian and Greek MIO teams embarked the Royal Moroccan Panther helicopter (helo) from Hassan II, in teams of five for a short flight to the Greek training vessel Aries, where they rappelled from the helo to the permanently-moored ship’s flight deck.
The fast-rope exercise was a way for the teams to practice an alternate method, referred to as helicopter visit, board, search and seizure; of boarding a vessel suspected of carrying suspicious cargo, said Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EWS/SW) Scott Crawford, a First Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques Master from Rota, Spain, who operated the Panther on five of the 12 passes the helo made to the Aries.
“It’s easier, and five times faster, to slide down a rope and hit the deck of a suspected vessel than it is to come up the side via a ladder,” said Crawford. “We made twelve passes with the helicopter, and I was impressed each time with how fast the teams’ turnaround was. The biggest thing to remember with an evolution like this is that you board in the reverse order in which you wish to exit the helo.”
The different MIO teams involved in the exercise prepared for the fast-rope evolution by first attending numerous classroom briefings on rappelling safely and efficiently as a team, followed by a required number of rappel evolutions from the training towers located at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center. Once the teams qualified on the towers, the instructors were ready to engage the teams in the fast-rope evolution from the helo.
“I enjoyed the involvement and coordination this training required,” said Malta navy Lt. Papa Pasquale, team commander for his country’s MIO team. “It is not an easy thing, to rappell down from a helicopter onto an unfamiliar ship, with all of the dangers that can come with such a mission. I am proud of the effort my teammates and I put forth throughout this evolution, and I feel it helps to show why we are here representing our country at PE-11.”
“This kind of training, where you have to learn from one another and back each other up, is great for foreign relations,” said Crawford. “It was an excellent time for me, personally, to be a part of this portion of PE-11. I definitely learned some things and feel it was beneficial for me as an instructor.”
With their feet planted firmly on the deck and their newly-acquired training at their disposal, the MIO teams at PE-11 will now head into the at-sea portion of the exercise to hone their skills in an entirely different environment.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/naveur/.