During my enlistment in the Marine Corps, I had the opportunity to use a lot of different gear. Towards the end of my enlistment, my unit was attached to the 24th MEU(SOC) to perform recovery of downed aircraft personnel. In layman terms, if one of our pilots went down behind enemy lines, we got the call to go locate and extract him. In order to obtain the (SOC) designation which is ‘Special Operations Capable’, we had to pass several different training evolutions and skill-set evaluations. One of those skill-sets was something known as SPIE (Special Purpose Insertion Extraction) Rigging.

You’re pretty much dangling on a rope from a helicopter. It’s one way to extract out of a landing zone if the helo cannot land. Back then we didn’t have all the now fancy harnesses that are available. We had a very early generation harness and a length of rope to tie our own swiss seat (as a backup) and then use one of our carabiners to clip into the rope hanging from the helicopter. You learn real quick to trust in both your skills to tie the damn swiss seat correctly, the integrity of the rope itself and the carabiner you’re using. Failure is not an option when you’re 1000’ off the ground flying through the air while hanging from a helo.

*Photos courtesy of the author