FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan - Training to fight and win in combat, no matter the obstacle or challenge is the goal of all the training and field exercises Soldiers participate in year-round, on installations across the world.
Training to overcome obstacles is a concept Soldiers are teaching their counterparts in the Afghan national army. Apart from the enemy, a major obstacle that fighting forces in Afghanistan must overcome is the rugged, mountainous terrain. While aviation assets provide freedom and ease of movement that land travel does not, there are still times when problems arise such as troop insertions and extractions.
The Pathfinders of Detachment 2 stationed at Forward Operating Base Fenty recently helped a Special Forces team instruct Afghan commandos in the use of the fast rope insertion and extraction system, or FRIES.
"The task force came up with this training plan with the help of the Special Forces," said Maj. Bernard Harrington, operations officer for Task Force Out Front. "Battle space in this area is very constrictive, so we thought it would be safer and easier for Soldiers to fast rope in, instead of having helicopters land."
Because of their specialized skills, the Pathfinders are occasionally asked by the Special Forces unit with help in various events.
"We were asked to help with the training due to some of our guys being qualified fast ropers and FRIES masters," said 1st Sgt. Brad Bonnell, of Pathfinder detachment. "Since they (Special Forces) were using our helicopters, the squadron wanted to incorporate us into the training."
The static training phase took place over the course of two days at Jalalabad. The commandos had to master fast roping techniques at three stations before they would be able to participate in the live event. Station One was fast-roping from a 30 foot tower. The second station involved the troops practicing their decent down the ramp of a CH-47, grabbing the rope and rotating out in the proper direction. The third station consisted of exiting a UH-60.
"It's important that you grab the rope and not try to jump to it," one of the Special Forces Soldiers explained to the commandos with the help of an interpreter. "If you miss the rope, you'll fall and could possibly die. It's also important that you rotate in the proper direction when grabbing the rope. If you turn into your buddy, you could knock him off the rope, and he could fall and die."
The training continued in this fashion until all the commandos were comfortable fast roping from the helicopter. The training not only was beneficial to the Afghan commandos, but it served as a refresher for the Pathfinders, who must always conduct fast rope training 24 hours prior to any live training event or operation.
"They are getting quality training that they will need," said Bonnell of the commandos. "It's a great event for them and for us."
FRIES is an important asset in being able to accomplish missions here in Afghanistan. It makes troop insertion possible in areas that it would be nearly impossible for other forces to get to.
"The FRIES capability is very important," explained Spc. Aaron Villareal, a Soldier with Pathfinder detachment. "It gives us a higher level of mobility. We can get in and out of places people can't normally get to."
For most of the Soldiers, the training event marks the first time that they will get to work with the Afghan forces.
"This is my first time getting to work with the Afghan soldiers," said Villareal. "They seem like they know what they're doing, they're always training and on the range. They are always ready to go."