By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James Mullen, USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs
PHILIPPINE SEA (June 29, 2016) – Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 conducted a Special Purpose Insertion/Extraction (SPIE) exercise and spent an afternoon suspended from a hovering helicopter over the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), June 29.
SPIE is used for inserting or extracting personnel when a helicopter is unable to land. This technique is useful in hostile territories or densely wooded terrain, which provide unsuitable helicopter landings. To ensure the team’s safety, SPIE equipment must be properly inspected before conducting the exercise.
“Any evolution of this nature has inherent risks, but, procedurally, SPIE has minimal potential operator errors,” said Lt. Kris Lovekamp, the platoon’s commander, from St. Louis. “The safety points for this training fall on ensuring that the gear we have is good – inspecting every rope, harness, carabiner – and then rigging it properly, both inside the helicopter and when hooking up the ropers.”
During the exercise, a SPIE rope containing D-rings for attaching personnel is lowered from a helicopter. The Sailors attach themselves to the rope, and the helicopter ascends transporting them to a safe landing area. With many variables at play, planning was key.
“It takes a good amount of coordination to do anything like this on the ship,” said Lovekamp. “There are a lot of moving parts, and everyone has to be on the same page to ensure success. The first few days are priming – planning out the big details with the people who need to know – and deconflicting. The final days are all about fine tuning and making sure everyone is tracking all of the little changes that inevitably occur.”
The mission of Navy EOD is to identify, render safe, and dispose of hazardous unexploded conventional munitions, chemical munitions and improvised explosive devices. EODMU 5 conducts many training exercises to maintain readiness, but SPIE is not an exercise conducted often.
“We try to maintain proficiency in all of our mission sets, but SPIE in particular is one that we don’t get as much of an opportunity for as we would like,” said Lovekamp. “Tactically, it is used less than some of our other mobility skills, so it is of slightly lower priority when it comes to our limited training time. On the ship, with ready access to helicopters and HSC-12 (Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron) being very helpful in scheduling training, we would like to SPIE more often.”
Helicopter rope suspension techniques, like SPIE, are used to improve the mission readiness of EODMU 5.
“Mobility skillsets are all about how we get to the task and get out afterwards,” said Lovekamp. “So in terms of mission readiness, this training is important to practice the rigging and make sure that, should we need to get out via SPIE, we would be able to quickly and safely do so.”