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The Story of How the Commanding Office of SEAL Team 8 Tragically Died

US Navy SEALs. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
US Navy SEALs. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

What Exactly Is a Fast-Rope Insertion? On Tuesday, a seasoned Navy SEAL officer died after an accident during routine training in Virginia Beach. Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, the commanding officer of SEAL Team 8, suffered serious injuries during a nighttime fast-rope insertion exercise over the weekend. He died at a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia.

Fast-roping is one of the most common infiltration methods, used mainly by special-operations forces but also by some conventional units. It’s a convenient and effective way to insert troops, but it has some inherent dangers.

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The Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES), the technique’s official name, is used to get special operators out of a helicopter or tilt-rotor aircraft and on target quickly.

Fast-roping uses a very thick rope attached to a bar on the fuselage of an aircraft — usually an MH-60 Blackhawk, an MH-47G Chinook, or a CV-22 Osprey — that is rolled out once on target.

Usually, a sandbag on the end of the rope holds it in place on the ground, keeping the rope from getting tangled and endangering the troops. Then, special operators wearing thick, heat-resistant gloves mount the rope and slide to the ground.

“You straighten your legs and hold tight on the rope. Imagine like you’re trying to enter a room through a window like they do in movies. You straighten your legs like that, and then you slide down,” a Special Forces operator assigned to a National Guard unit told Insider.

Depending on the airframe, an aircraft could have two ropes being used by exiting troops simultaneously, making the insertion that much faster. Unlike rappelling, there can be more than one troop on the same rope. Most special-operations units around the world use the technique.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.