Marine Heavy Helicopter Battalion 464 assisted Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians and French naval special forces during a Helicopter Rope Suspension Training session on a flightline at a French camp in Djibouti Oct. 22.
The purpose of the HRST session, also known as fastrope, was to train side-by-side and evaluate each of the services’ capabilities.
Being deployed to Camp Lemonier has given HMH-464 the opportunity to train with the French prior to this fastrope exercise. The combined operation also serves as a measuring stick to how well they know their own mission requirements.
“Anytime you can conduct training with a new unit, especially of another country, you can find out how well you know your own training because you must be able to explain it to them,” said Marine Capt. Patrick A. Wasden, HMH-464 operations officer. “The fastrope training that was conducted is something we do on a regular basis with Marine units, but rarely with other countries.
“It has taken a lot of coordination through the French liaison on staff here to make this type of training possible,” said Wasden. “The eagerness of both sides is what makes it work so well.”
Wasden feels training with the French has had a positive effect on French and U.S. servicemembers.
“The combined, joint environment that we work in is good for all involved because it lets you compare your own capabilities and experience with that of other service branches and countries,” said Wasden.
This particular training session was developed to give the French an experience of fastrope off of a CH-53.
“The Ch-53 has a lot of wind compared to the French helicopters,” said French navy Cmdr. Alban Lapointe, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa exercise planner and French liaison officer. “Fastrope is a difficult skill, much more so with high winds. It was important for French navy special forces to get hands-on training with this type of aircraft.”
French and U.S. forces don’t train together often, but one EOD technician has experienced working with French naval forces on more than one occasion.
“I’ve worked with the French on several occasions throughout my time in EOD,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer Melissa A. Tackitt, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa EOD Mobile Unit 8 Detachment 20 master technician. “I have yet to run into the same Frenchman twice. Each and every time, it’s a new group of guys. It’s funny to talk to them about what I do in EOD because they have no women in French diving or EOD, so they find it interesting that I do the same things only certain men are able to do on their teams.”
For another CJTF-HOA EOD technician, it was a first-time experience.
“At first sight, they looked a bit motley since their uniforms and grooming standards were nothing I was used too, but after a day of working with them, I had gained full confidence in their capabilities,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Demetrius S. O’Halloran, CJTF-HOA EOD MU8 Det. 20 technician.
Training with the French naval special forces gave the EOD technicians an opportunity to gain a different perspective on the fastrope scenario.
“I’m always looking for different ways of getting the same end-result safely,” said O’Halloran. “In our job, the same scenario never presents itself more than once. We’re always put into situations where we have to think on the spot and go with it.”
The Marines and Sailors are a part of the CJTF-HOA mission involving more than 1,800 U.S. and coalition forces serving in the operational effort to prevent conflict, promote regional stability, and protect coalition interest in order to prevail against extremism.