Overcoming The Rappel Tower at MCRD

By Kenneth Miller
Updated on
Rappel Tower at MCRD

For three months the recruits of Company C have overcome obstacles, swim qualification, the confidence course, and countless other challenges. On August 5 they overcame their biggest challenge to date.

before the drill
Instructional Training Company drill instructors inspect recruits’ harnesses before allowing them to descend the rappel tower aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Aug. 5. Safety is the most important factor when recruits face the 60-foot rappel tower

The depot’s rappel tower shoots 60 feet into the San Diego skyline terrifying those afraid of heights and giving recruits exciting Marine Corps training.

“It’s just like the pool, some are afraid of water (and) others are afraid of heights,” said Sgt. Christopher Blas, drill instructor, Company C, 1st Recruit Training Battalion. “The tower teaches them that they need to trust their equipment and their leaders. It allows them to overcome their fears, and with that confidence, they can increase what they do through a better mindset.”

The recruits of Company C got used to the tower by fast-roping before their rappelling classes. Fast roping is a method for quick insertion on an objective from a helicopter. The recruits slide down a 15-foot rope, grabbing it with both hands and using the inner portion of their boot to control their descent. After hitting the ground, they run to collect a length of rope, a carabineer, and gloves.

A recruit from Company C begins his descent down a 60-foot rappel tower Aug. 5 aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Drill instructors watch the recruits from above and below to ensure their safety.

With equipment in hand, the recruits gathered on bleachers to learn how to make a rappel harness and the art of rappelling safely.

Drill instructor demonstrators showed the recruits how to go down the wall and the proper way to use their guide and brake hands. The recruits hold the rope with their left hand at about chest level and use their right hand to hold the rope at the small of their back to slow their descent. The recruits only needed to apply about 20 pounds of pressure with their brake hand to stop themselves.

To show the recruits how safe they are, demonstrators purposely fell and hung upside down on the tower while the drill instructors on the ground stopped them from falling by pulling the rope tight.

“Chances are they’ll have a death grip on the rope when they go down the wall anyway,” said Sgt. Garrett Griebenow, static rope suspension trainer, Instructional Training Company, Support Battalion.

Before they can descend the tower they are thoroughly inspected by ITC drill instructors to make sure their harnesses are tightly secured.

“I don’t like heights, but I’m not scared, just nervous,” said Recruit Justin Lyman, Co. C, 1st RTBN. “I trust my drill instructors to save me if I fall.”

Once checked the recruits lined up at the ladder to go up the tower. At the top were ITC drill instructors ready to strap the recruits to their respective ropes. Recruits went down the wall or through a hole that was meant to simulate the “hell-hole” of a helicopter.

marines running
Recruits hit the ground running after fast roping Aug. 5. They learned how to fast rope before they received their classes on how to rappel and make their harness. Fast roping is a method of quick insertion on an objective from a helicopter.

“The recruits will be going to different MOSs (military occupational specialty),” said Sgt. Derek Durazo, drill instructor, ITC, Support Battalion. “They still need to know how to do things like this.”

Upon finishing their descent, the recruits do one side-straddle hop, announce “recruit off rappel,” and then return their gear to their respective areas.

“I’ve done stuff like this before,” said Recruit Robert Pena, Co. C, 1st RTBN. “I enjoyed it, it was fun.”