U.S. special operators have several ways to get to work.

Green Beret teams can do free-fall jumps with oxygen from 25,000 feet, and Navy SEAL squads can spend up to eight hours in mini-submarines on combat dives.

One of the least known methods of insertion and exfiltration is the “helocast,” an airborne special-operations technique used by small commando elements to insert into semi- or non-permissive areas.


Scary but Effective

Marines and sailors in the Basic Reconnaissance Course practice helocasting in San Diego Bay, November 6, 2013. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Orrin Farmer/USMC)

Helocasting involves commandos jumping from a helicopter into water and either swimming or using a small boat that they bring with them to get to shore.

“Helocast ops are an important insertion method in our quiver” that provides flexibility, even if it’s “not the most comfortable technique as far as insertion methods go,” a Green Beret assigned to a National Guard unit told Insider.

Through helocasting, Special Forces units “can creep up on a target without be seen” and exfiltrate very quickly if needed, the Green Beret said. “Our pilots are amazing, and they can fly right on top of the waves. They are really great because it requires a different kind of coolness to know that you have a dozen or more lives literally on your hands and still be cool about it.”

Some conventional rotary-wing units are qualified to support helocasting operations, but the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as the “Night Stalkers,” is the go-to choice for such missions.