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Saturday February 09th 2008 - 11:12 AM EST
Added by: Don Shipley

Never tell a Helo Pilot he can’t scare you. As young SEALs, we’d always 
tell Pilots this and we were always wrong as they can and would scare the 
Hell out of us.  As I got older,  I’d make it a point to tell my guys not 
to encourage or dare the Pilots, and I meant it, as I’ve had my share of 
No close calls with their bravado, very skilled guys, they just knew what 
they could do to "freak us out."

The close calls came when just regular things happened on-board Helo’s, 
and with so much time on them,  lot’s of regular thing happened and no need 
in making the normal ride any worse.

Our platoon was tasked with a POW Rescue. It was a training mission in 
California at a Navy compound that taught "Survival, Escape, Resistance 
and Evasion (SERE) Training.
Before we raided the camp and rescued the prisoners we sent out a couple 
guys on a Helo to do a "Fly By" and take some pictures of the camp for the 
mission planning. A common practice, SEALs would fly over an area they’d 
be operating in and have a look at the terrain by air.

What wasn’t common was the Helo having a major problem over the target and 
being forced to land immediately or crash.

With no suitable landing zones nearby they set the bird down right in the 
POW Compound and saved the guards the trouble of having to hunt down and 
attempt the capture of our guys.

During an extraction in Alaska, after a long, tough operation, we gladly 
boarded two Huey’s that came for us and headed for a hot shower and chow.
My squad was STUFFED into one Helo with all our packs and skies, the other 
squad STUFFED into the other and flying alongside us.
Happy to be out of Alaska’s worst and warming up for the first time in 
days, we waived at each other happily knowing we were done with another 
"Ball Buster Operation" and heading home soon.

Not quite, as the other Helo banked sharply and went down hard in the 
snow. With the blades still turning in a cloud of snow it was hard to tell 
how bad the crash had been and if the guys were OK.
There was nothing we could do with a full load and no comms except head 
for the base and send the Helo back for a rescue.
I took a long time to re-fuel and get permission to send the Helo back and 
we waited for word on our guys.
All fine, the guys broke out their sleeping bags and made coffee with 
their stoves and were picked up awhile later unharmed but shook up.

Explosions, fires, clipping power lines and chopping antennas on Ships, 
I’d thought I’d seen it all until the "Night of the Fastrope" in the 
Persian Gulf.

We lived on barges in the Gulf during the Iran/Iraq War in the mid 80’s. 
Team One on Winbrown and Team Two guys were on the Hercules nearby.
On a stormy night we planned to "Hit" the Hercules for some training using 
a Helo and Fastrope on-board.

A Fastrope is a method of insertion we use. The rope comes in lengths of 
50 and 90 feet and as big around as the average guys forearm. We’d throw 
the rope, which was attached outside the door of the Helo and slide down 
the rope quickly one after another. ( The Fastrope  was shown in the Black 
Hawk Down movie.)

Being the Fastrope Master, I threw the rope when we were over the Helo pad 
on the Hercules and quickly began my rapid decent to the deck.
The Helo pad was 80 feet high on the Herc and a fall over the side into 
the water would have been a bad one, real bad.

On the deck,  I ran to my designated corner on the pad and set security. 
As I was on a knee and looking out I realized the Helo was coming toward 
me and as I looked back I could see it coming at high speed wobbling side 
to side and spilling guys off the rope as it headed for the side of the 

A steady stream of guys were dumped along its path in a neat line across 
the deck with the last guy dropping in the safety nets next to me as I 
rushed to grab him preventing his long drop to the dark water below.

The Helo flew over the side of the barge out of sight and then gained 
altitude and continued flying away.

We quickly gathered together on the pad and in our "shaken state" began 
trying to figure out what happened and making a few jokes that only SEALs 
can make after something really bad happens.

While doing this one of the guys says’s "Ooo Shit!"
As we look in the direction he’s looking we can clearly see the Helo in 
the distance silhouetted by a full moon. We can also see someone is still 
on the rope hanging under the Helo.

The Pilots and Crew Chief are doing the same thing we are and trying to 
figure out what happened and finally one of them remembered the rope still 
attached and sees in horror that a guy is hanging on it.

Slowly turning around so not to shake him off the rope, they return over 
the barge and Bill drops off the rope at a nice high altitude and crashes 
into the deck in a heap.

Bill tells us later that he realized he’d go over the side and somehow 
stopped his decent on the rope even with all his gear and weapon. He also 
told us he helped hold onto the rope with his teeth biting the rope a hard as he 

We called it a night...



Comment by: Shane
Wednesday February 13th 2008 - 10:13 PM EST

Damn, that's really something. Great blog. Speaking of Iraq, where'd the pictures go of the SEALs over there?

I have started the SEAL pt on here. Great workouts, I'm really feeling them already.

Reply By: Don Shipley

Thanks Shane. We're just re-doing a few things on the site and we'll back strong soon... Kick some ass with the workouts...

Talk soon... Don

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