August 5, 2015, BASA AIR BASE, PAMPANGA, Philippines — Staring from the top of the tower, they experience an irrepressible surge of adrenaline. The surge becomes a cold rush as they grab the rope, spin 180 degrees, and slide toward the ground 40 feet below. Bracing for impact, they hit the deck and sprint out of the way before the next man lands.
United States and Philippine service members teamed up for preparatory rappelling and fast rope training here during Air Assault Support Exercise 2015-2, July 15, 2015. The next day, the team of U.S. Marines, Philippine Marines and Philippine airmen would repeat the exercise from a helicopter instead of a tower.
“We taught the Philippine Marines and airmen the prerequisites to fast rope out of a helicopter, which is tower training,” said 1st Lt. Oliver Noteware, the executive officer of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. “We had them all fast rope slick without gear, and with gear using the U.S. Marine Corps Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques. We trained the Filipinos to the same standards as we did the Americans.”
The training has made Philippine forces more versatile, according to Noteware. They now have the ability to fast rope or rappel when there is no viable landing zone.
Second Battalion, 3rd Marines, which is attached to III Marine Expeditionary Force as part of the Corps’ Unit Deployment Program, gained insight into the Philippine troops’ unique tactics. Philippine forces have significant experience fighting internal enemies, who they call communist terrorists. Most clashes with the terrorists occur in the jungle, which is an unusual climate for the U.S. Marine battalion.
“We are learning from them how they operate,” said Sgt. Brent Maholy, a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, Fox Company. “They are not teaching us formal classes, but we have an appreciation of their skill-level.”
Whether rappelling, fast roping or bushwhacking through the jungle, U.S. and Philippine forces are forging a stronger relationship in the Pacific. Through bilateral training like Air Assault Support Exercise, the partner forces hope to gain a broader perspective of military tactics and become closer allies.