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News | May 15, 2015

Commentary: Exercise serves up fresh, hot FRIES

By By Maj. Tiffany Collins, U.S. Special Operations Command Central

THE HASHEMITE KINGDOM OF JORDAN, May 15, 2015 – U.S. special operators remind me that fries are not just the crispy, tender, deep-fried potato that we’ve all come to love and enjoy. U.S. Green Berets assigned to Task Force Oryx cooked up some Fast Rope Insertion and Extraction System, or FRIES, training at the Prince Hashim Royal Air Base, Jordan, during Exercise Eager Lion 2015.

The Special Forces Air Operations Field Manual describes the FRIES method as one employed specifically in situations where the terrain restricts an aircraft from landing. The Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 84 (HSC-84), a U.S. Navy element assigned to Norfolk, Virginia, is dedicated to special operations forces support within the Department of Defense and conducted the FRIES training event.

An HH-60H pilot assigned to the squadron tells me that the objective is to get the team in as fast as possible, and I witness this for myself as two small teams of seven to 10 operators slide down a massive rope at lightning speeds.

Not only do the operators conducting fast rope training participate in extensive instruction to become certified on this method of infiltration, but so do the aircrews who fly FRIES activities.

“The teams’ objectives are to gain [fast rope] proficiency at getting down the rope, while the crew gets good practice with holding a steady hover and intercepting at the right point,” the pilot says.

Taking its name from the type of rope used during employment, the fast roping involves inherent risks, therefore it requires great attention to detail from all personnel involved. Crewmembers of the two HH-60H Rescue Hawks provided all participants with a detailed safety brief prior to the execution of training.

A Green Beret assigned to Task Force Oryx describes fast roping “as having no actual connection points. With air assault, you wear a Swiss seat or some type of repelling harness you actually clip into a rope. [But with fast roping], you just grab on and slide down.”

Credited with the first recorded fast rope infiltration during a conflict, British special forces employed the FRIES method during the Falklands War in 1982. Since that time, several nations, including the U.S., adopted this capability as standard operating procedure for their elite forces.

Exercise Eager Lion 2015 is yet another sterling example of why this and the vast array of multinational exercises undertaken by U.S. Central Command remain not only valid training opportunities, but vital to security in the Middle East and the United States. The skills honed here, cemented by the relationships fostered throughout the years with partner nations’ special operations forces ensure the next generation of interoperability among the world’s elite forces.

Eager Lion runs May 5-19 in Jordan, involving about 10,000 forces from 18 countries and NATO.