By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke,
USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs
WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN – (June 13) Strong hand, weak hand, go! – And before the words finished resonating off the steel walls, the next Sailor disappeared below the mezzanine ledge.
Members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 invited Sailors from USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, to participate in fast-rope training, June 13.
Twenty-eight volunteer participants received hands-on training from eight EODMU 5 team members during a two-hour period, which provided Sailors with the information and skillset to safely and efficiently rappel from a 25-foot high platform located in the ship’s hangar bay.
“Fast roping is something we would use as an insertion method for any sort of operations that would involve a mobility skillset,” said Lt. Kris Lovekamp, EODMU 5 platoon commander, from St. Louis. “We train for helicopter visit, board, search and seizure operations, but it’s not just limited to the marine environment. It’s used on land more than it is on ships. We use it for insertion into targets where the helos can’t necessarily land because of terrain or because the area is too ‘hot’ and they’ll take fire, so they have to get us in and out real fast.”
Just as the insertion environment affects the entry method, EOD members adapt their tactical gear to achieve the mission at hand.
According to Lovekamp, depending on the mission set, EOD members could have 70-80 pound packs during operations.
“We try to minimize that weight, especially if we are inserting like this, instead of just landing the helo and getting out,” said Lovekamp. “Ideally we try to stay below 30 feet, because obviously, the closer you are to the ground, the less chance you have of hurting yourself. We typically brief 30 feet as the ceiling, we can do up to 60 feet, but that’s less than ideal.”
“I think this does a great job of demonstrating what these guys have to be able to do,” said Capt. Brett Crozier, Ronald Reagan’s executive officer, from Santa Rosa, California. “And I think there’re probably some future EOD candidates out here participating.”
Crozier was the first volunteer off the platform.
“I thought I’d lead from the front and go first,” said Crozier. “The best part is that first step over the ledge, as you have to be confident in the technique that they teach you.”
Participants were required to have scored at least a satisfactory on their most recent physical fitness assessment, route a special request chit through their chain of command, and pass a 30-second flexed-arm hang (holding their body in the up position of a pull-up with their chin above the bar for 30 seconds without dropping below the bar).
“I learned how to jump down a rope really fast,” said Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Michael Ferry, from Homestead, Florida. “It was a cool experience. I don’t ever see scenario as an AT where I’m going to be fast roping, but it was a lot of fun.”
According to Lovekamp, the training allowed EODMU 5, who is operating aboard Ronald Reagan as part of Carrier Strike Group 5, to integrate with ship’s company and boost morale.
“EOD is a small community, and a lot of people look at us and wonder what we do here, so it gives us an opportunity to get our names out there and show face and give people some unique opportunities that I think everybody can benefit from,” said Lovekamp. “I think for us, just as the ship looks at us and wonders what we do, we aren’t always in the know as far as how the ship runs. So for us, it’s a good opportunity to get to see everybody else, put names to faces and learn their jobs. And it gives us a better appreciation for what everyone else does as well.”
The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.