Naval Special Warfare Command is reporting that the Commanding Officer of SEAL Team Eight, Commander Brian Bourgeois has succumbed to injuries he sustained during a fast-rope training evolution on December 4th in Virginia.
The Navy did not disclose any information on how the mishap occurred, but a thorough investigation of any incident that kills or results in significant injury to a servicemember is routine.
Fast-Roping is a method used to rapidly get SEALs aboard a helicopter down to the deck using a rope more than one and a half inches in diameter. Using gloves, the SEALs are able to slide down the rope at a safe speed to the ground very quickly. Several SEALs may go down on the rope at that same time if proper intervals between them are maintained.
The Dangers of Fast Roping
It is an inherently dangerous training evolution where many things can go wrong, any of which can result in death or serious injury. Heavy gloves are used to grip the rope and as a brake to control the descent. Go too fast and the gloves heat up almost instantly to temps that make it all but impossible to hang on. Equipment loads pose another risk as the SEAL must compensate for as much as eighty pounds of additional weight using just the strength in his arms. If several men are on the rope going down at once, at least a three-meter spacing between them on the rope is needed to prevent the upper man from crashing down on the man below him. Most of the time, SEALs would be descending the rope to a hard deck on a ship or oil platform so a fall is generally going to produce injuries.
Done correctly, as many as twenty-five Navy SEALs can descend from a helicopter in under thirty seconds by fast-roping.
Routine Training Qualifications Prior To Deployment
Fast roping is part of the skill set of every Navy SEAL. A SEAL platoon returning from deployment will almost immediately begin training for their next deployment by retraining and demonstrating certain core competencies to be considered combat-ready.
SEAL Team EIGHT (ST-8) is based at Little Creek, VA. with eight operational platoons with a headquarters element. ST-8 has a geographic area of concentration comprising the Caribbean, Africa, and the Mediterranean. It deploys combat-ready platoons to carrier battle groups (CVBGs) as well as amphibious ships in support of the Second, Fifth, and Sixth Fleet. Team-8 conducts deployments for training (DFTs) throughout the Caribbean, Africa, and the littoral Mediterranean.
Naval Special Warfare Command Pledges Life Long Support To The Family
Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command expressed his condolences to the family of CDR Bourgeois saying, “…we will ensure our community remains in support of and in relationship with Brian’s family and his children, for life,”
“Brian was one of our very best leaders, who possessed all the attributes that make our force effective. We will miss his charismatic leadership and faithful stewardship of our standard. His legacy carries on in teammates he served with, led, and mentored.”
As is customary, the Executive Officer of Team Eight will assume command awaiting a new commanding officer to be assigned by Special Warfare Group Two.
CDR Bourgeois attended the Naval Academy and graduated with the class of 2001, just months prior to the September 11th Attacks. He played Safety on the football team. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star for Valor.
CDR Bourgeois had served twenty years in the Navy and was just forty-three years old.
He is survived by his wife and five children.