Sunday, April 3, 2011

Navy SEALs - Getting There is Half the Battle

Helicopters are an ideal platform for SEAL operations because they are so versatile; they can hover close to the ground or higher up. The SEALs can perform basic insertion (jumping directly from the aircraft to the land or water, without parachutes or lines), or they can make the insertion through rapelling or fast-roping.  In rapelling, a pair of SEALs will balance on the skids of a helicopter until they are clear of the hovering craft. Once clear, it's a controlled drop to the surface, about 100 feet below. In fast roping, the SEALs slide down a thick rope of woven wool much like firemen slide down a pole. On the "go" signal, the SEALs, one right after the other, drop from a helo hovering between 50 and 75 feet above the ground. Things happen fast. An entire squad can be on the ground in 3 to 5 seconds. In fact, the whole operation is so fast that a SEAL who doesn't get clear of the rope the instant his feet hit the ground runs the risk of having a size twelve land on his head.

Whatever the insertion tactic, the objective remains the same: getting to the target quickly and safely.  And, of course, for every insertion there is an extraction. This may be as simple as waiting for a helo to land at a predetermined point or as complicated as coordinating the McGuire lift. In this lift, the helo crew throws out lines that the SEALs attach to "swiss seats," special climbing harnesses. They are lifted clear and flown out of the area. The real trick is in the landing. The SEALs have to hit the ground running and must unhook before the helo drags them back into the air again. 

To some people, comfort is a warm spot under the covers or a favorite couch. To a Navy SEAL, comfort is more likely to be that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from a job well done--even if the job requires you to jump from a hot airplane into a cold ocean.

Courtesy of PH1 Chuck Mussi

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