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.