“Safety is the No. 1 priority,” nearly 50 Soldiers from across the country were told while attending Oregon’s annual summer Rappel Master Course June 10-14 at Camp Rilea near Warrenton, Oregon.
“The Rappel Master Course is a safety course that teaches young leaders how to properly run a rappel tower or rappel operations out of a helicopter using a rappel system,” explained Massachusetts Army National Guard SSG Thomas Presutti, an instructor with Company B, Warrior Training Center.
Army National Guard instructors, divided into three companies and assigned to the Warrior Training Center (WTC) at Fort Benning, Georgia, serve as the point men for training service members in a variety of specialty skills to increase and maintain the operational readiness of the Army National Guard.
Company B, which instructs the Air Assault, Pathfinder and Rappel Master courses, regularly travels as a Mobile Training Team. Instructors have already made the rounds this year, completing courses in Georgia, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania before starting the June course in Oregon.
While any highly qualified Soldier between the ranks of E-4 and O-2 may be selected to attend the Master Rappel Course (regardless of MOS), Soldiers must also be a graduate of the Air Assault, Ranger, Sapper or Military Mountaineer Course. Often, Soldiers come straight out of an Air Assault Course to attend Rappel Master.
“They come right in [and] it’s tough on them, but we don’t beat them up like we do in Air Assault,” SSG Presutti said. “It’s more of a gentleman’s course.”
Nevada Army National Guard SSG Jared Hale, of the 3665th Explosive Ordnance Company, said he benefited from taking the Air Assault and Rappel Master courses back to back.
“One of the good things about it is that it’s all fresh,” SSG Hale said. “I didn’t have to come back like some of my other Nevada counterparts and relearn. I’ve been doing this stuff for the last two weeks.”
SSG Hale said the 12-day Air Assault Course, which wrapped up on June 8 at Camp Rilea, was “more like basic training … more dress-right-dress, show up at 4 o’clock in the morning, being smoked on zero day, the obstacle course. It’s like that all the way through.”
He said having some of the same instructors for both Air Assault and Rappel Master made things easier. “You have trust – it was actually a great transition,” he said.
Students closed out the course by completing Advanced Rappelling, also known as rescue rappelling, where one Soldier plays a person in distress while another rescues them. The last task required to complete the course is a cumulative written final exam.
SSG Hale said he recommends the Rappel Master Course. “It teaches you a lot more in depth, especially techniques, things you’re going to see and need to know than just the Air Assault course on its own,” he said.
Company B instructors were to finish their course schedule for the year with a Rappel Master Course in Grafenwoehr, Germany, in September. The Oregon Army National Guard has hosted the Rappel Master Course at Camp Rilea, on the Oregon Coast, for more than 10 years.
By CPT Leslie Reed, Oregon National Guard