Korea-based soldiers learn rappelling is no easy task
SEOUL, South Korea — Jumping out of a helicopter at 90 feet and shimmying down a rope is scary, even for someone who’s been through airborne school.
“There’s a very high possibility that if you’re not doing things the right way, if you’re not listening to your instructors, then you could get hurt,” said 1st Lt. Nathan Styer, a Camp Humphreys-based signal officer and one of several hundred 2nd Infantry Division soldiers in South Korea taking part in a 10-day air assault training course at Camp Casey.
Unlike airborne school, which teaches soldiers to parachute, “This one is all on yourself and your own abilities, your ability to use the rappel rope. If you get too frightened, you lose the frame of mind about how to do this safely,” Styer said.
The class, which began Sept. 10, is held about once a year in South Korea and draws soldiers from across the peninsula, like Styer, who is stationed at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.
Taught by instructors from Fort Benning, Ga., the course is mentally and physically grueling, and it’s not unusual for one-fifth of the class to drop out. It kicks off with Zero Day, which includes an obstacle course and a two-mile run that has to be completed in 18 minutes. Soldiers then spend nearly a week learning about the aircraft they’ll be working with and how to conduct sling-load operations.
Finally, they learn to rappel — first from towers on the ground, then from a UH-60 helicopter. The course culminates in a 12-mile foot march.
“It’s very tough training because it’s such a short period of time,” said 2ID’s Sgt. Maj. Anthony Crisostomo, who completed the training in 1991. “You’ve got 10 days to understand, comprehend and memorize the nomenclature, the pieces of equipment. That’s a stressor for a soldier.”
Having soldiers trained in air assault missions helps their units conduct more operations, from landing helicopters to moving pieces of equipment more quickly, he said.
“For aviation units that are operationally attached to a brigade, that unit has the assets already,” he said. “All we need are the enablers, the soldiers that can move the equipment and conduct the operations.”
A week into the course, Spc. Mireyea Rodriguez was one of seven women still remaining. Of the 276 soldiers who began the class — including 21 females — only 211 remained about halfway through.
“I did this because I wanted to prove a point to everybody that size doesn’t matter,” said the 5-foot-1 air defense systems battle management operator, who is stationed at Osan Air Base. She said her small stature made the parts of the obstacle course more challenging, but that only meant “you just have to jump a little higher, push yourself a little harder, put a little more heart into it.”