USS CARL VINSON (NNS) -- Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 11 Det. 9, currently deployed with USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), took to the clouds Valentine's Day to perform several rapelling and fast rope exercises atop the mighty warship's flight deck.
Depending on the flight schedule, the eight-man EOD team performs at least one fast rope/rappel drill per month, and according to Vinson's EOD Leading Chief Petty Officer, Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (EOD) Kevin Borkowski, his team is at the highest readiness level.
"We train constantly to maintain our proficiency in areas such as quick insertion via fast rope or rappel, which are commonly used in scenarios where there are no other means to access the area or when the maneuver is deemed necessary," he said. "Presently, we stand ready to engage any situation that may arise."
Staying ready involves keeping a fine eye to safety during every stage of helicopter rope suspension training (HRST) evolutions, such as fast roping and rappelling, said EOD Officer in Charge Lt. Evan Colbert.
"We have two pre-flight briefs before we engage in HRST operations," said Colbert, "one with the pilots and air crew that covers the overall concept of the operation from their perspective. Then we have another brief with just members from the team, which covers what equipment we are going to use, the different hand signals and other safety points more specific to just EOD."
While airborne, there are three key people commands must run through before an EOD technician performs any step of the operation: the pilot, the air crew chief and the EOD HRST master.
"The air crew chief gets permission from the pilot to tell the HRST master to deploy the rope," said Colbert. "Once the rope is deployed, the air crew chief will again look to the pilot for approval before giving a 'thumbs up' to the HRST master to go ahead and deploy the Sailor. This process continues until we are done, or we are told to stop by the pilot."
Standard equipment for both the rappelling and fast roping portions of the drill include helmets, kneepads, leather gloves and sunglasses.
When rappelling, the EOD team will use a waist harness attached to a 120-foot static line and other pieces of equipment used to help the technician control their speed while descending. However, fast roping, according to Colbert, is a different story.
"When fast roping, you use a 90-foot, two-inch braided rope, and the tempo is much quicker with everything controlled by friction," he said. "There are no ulterior safety devices. My guys could be carrying up to 50 pounds of gear, and if they can't hang on, then it's over. This makes communication between the pilots, crew chief and HRST master very important, and Sailors performing the exercise must stay alert."
With several years of experience tucked under Colbert and Borkowski's combat vests, their team's evolution went well. However, forward progression is always a constant goal for self-motivated people.
"As with any operation, there are always points we hit to go over to better increase our proficiency, but overall, it was a safe and successful training exercise."
The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is currently on deployment in the Western Pacific. The strike group is on a six-month deployment to promote peace and stability, and respond to emergent events overseas. Carl Vinson will end its deployment with a homeport shift to Norfolk, Va,. in support of a three-year refuel and complex overhaul.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.