Exiting a Slick at Altitude (Rappelling)

327 Infantry Veterans

Exiting a Slick at Altitude (Rappelling)



Anyone remember the Rappelling Thing in 67 , Out around Duc Pho, or? Chu Lie in the mountains… That ! Liked Tah , “SKAIREID DAH HAM & SLYMMEEZE ! Out of This Ole Fat, White Boy ! TWAN’T, Too bad. Til, Some Body (?) Handed Me A Pair of SWETTY OLE BLACK LEATHER G.I. ISSUED GLOOVE’S W/INSERT’S & A D-RING ! NOW , What the Hell Do You ~ ? IT’S ABOUT 110 F. OUT HERE ! WHY ! THE INSULATTED ~~~ SHUTTUP ! DOC. & PAY ATTENTION ! ????? WHAT THE ? Next Thing I Know ! I’M Maken A HARD- LANDING ! WITHOUT ! A CHOOPER UNDER ME ARSE ! JUST A PAIR of SMOKEIN LEATHER GLOOVE’S & A D-RING ! HANGEN OFF ME WAIST BAND ! Now , Not only was that the FOIST TIME ? I EVER REPELLED ! IT WAS , (THE LAST !) TIME(.) 🙂 Know What I Meen ?

Worse than rappelling. You remember climbing out of the back of the Chinooks by rope ladder at Tuy Hoa? LOL
Would have been sometime around the late summer or fall of 1966.

Thankfully I never had the pleasure of climbing down the rope ladder. I enjoyed rappelling down the Tower at Camp Eagle, it wasn’t much fun off the skid of a Slick though. It maybe that by the time of my tour the Army decided the rope ladder was too treacherous. Anyway never used rappelling for a CA just trained to do it one Standown. We had enough sprains and bruises form exiting Slicks at a distance from the LZ to make a regular assault dangerous enough. See you at Cobra Lake next month!

I’ve been up and down the ladders out of the back of a Chinook, never cared for it. I did enjoy rappelling from towers, cliffs, out of slicks, whatever. I’ve had a couple of chances to rappel in the last 4 or 5 years, what a rush. I didn’t enjoy slack jumping quite as much, that sudden stop when you reach the end of your slack could jar your teeth loose.

The slack jump jarred something much lower then my teeth.
Never Any Slack!

love to read these first-hand stories!!!
Now, I have a question, is “slack” as in the amount of rope, (or lack of…) what you all are referring to? Hence, “no slack?”
Little (slow…) Sis

No Slack is summed up this way…

No Breather from Work
No relief from Combat
No request for Respite

Mouse is referring to the type of rappelling we did from a helicopter. You took up about 10′-12′ of rope into the floor of the chopper. The trooper then hooked the D-Ring attached to the Swiss seat he is wearing, onto the rope and placed his hand (left or right depending on the individual) behind his back into the brake position. Then he stepped off the skids. The slack in the rope was taken up by the fall allowing his head to clear the skid and then he proceeded the rest of the way down the rope by removing and applying his brake hand as needed. Off the Rappelling Tower you proceeded over the edge with a taut rope again with you hand in the brake position (don’t forget to clip the D-Ring) once in position you simultaneously let your brake off and kick out with you legs away from the wall. Ideally at the apex
of your arc you apply your brake hand and the taut rope brings you back to the wall. Repeat the process until you reach the ground.
Never any Slack!
Yankee Jim
PS: check out the 327th Vietnam Eagles home page they follow the link INSIDE THE WIRE for “our” collection of first hand stories

Read a book a few years ago about the 101 and slack jumping where the old E7 was teaching the art in RVN and the bird was a bit to low. He busted up his legs even though he did a good PLF. You may have read it too. My wife uses the word taunt and I keep telling her it is taut [rigger language]. I looked it up when I saw the word in your para to see if I was losing it [more] and it said ” taunt, to taunt or mock.” Weather is still wet this past week, hoping for a dry spell.

Roger that, taut not taunt! It’s a shame I can’t spell and spell check doesn’t pick up when you correctly spell the incorrect word. Thanks for the heads up… Taunt like TOP telling you to “get yourself over the side of the wall lady, there’s men waiting!” Never had to insert from a Slick in a combat situation, glad for it too. I doubt that you use the brake other then when you make the initial move off the skid. Here’s a STARS & STRIPES (issue Mar. 30-Apr. 5.1970) photo of 2-A 2/327th using a combination of field expedient rappelling and unorthodox rope maneuvers to get up, then down a mountain, somewhere in Nam, April 1970.
Yankee Jim

lt _sherridan_1970

As usual, another great pic of the 327th in there younger days. I took two guys from the men’s retreat, last weekend, and taught them rapelling off a cliff and ending up as a vertical drop no touch the last 30 feet. Sort of like the slick but the ground isn’t moving. I did not rappel in the service but learned it in Civil Air Patrol from an AF PJ. Also learned how to ascend a rope using 2 lengths of rope with a clove hitch on top and a loop for your foot on the bottom. Works good on straight up haul on rope against no cliff or wall. Also learned pulley system to have 4 carry a stokes litter down a mountain while 4 go up the mountain using the pulley to even out the upward/downward pull. Some great stuff that we use in training

I think our younger 327th Brothers use a technique they call Fast Rope to exit a chopper. You familiar with it?
Is it similar to rappelling ? I always wondered who was going to remember how to construct a Swiss Seat if we needed to rappel into a LZ?
Yankee Jim

If the No Slack troopers were around email, I am SURE the ones with their Air Assault badge would love to weigh in on the Fast Rope. Here’s what I know from my trooper, Mike: he said it was just about the coolest thing he’d ever done. No gears except gloves and boots and you have to be traveling light. Apparently you control the drop of your entire body weight with friction from your hands and feet. Naturally, as the mom, I asked, “what if you let go?” before I realized what a dumb one that was…what human is going to let go?
No Slack to you guys!!!

I have read most of the Rogue Warrior series of books by Seal Team 6 founder Richard [Demo Dick] Marcinko. He talks much about the fast rope method. I did learn the tie of the Swiss Seat which I showed to my two new rappellers. If you remember to start by putting the middle of the 20 ft. length in your teeth, it should come back to you. My 22 year old was 8 when we both learned and I watched him do it from memory after 12 years. A few days ago he went rappelling for the first time since a kid and he said he tied it right the first time. His friend who was just discharged from the 82nd ABN. tied it a different way but it came out the right way also. I use a Kernmantle rope which is good for 11 falls. That would be 11 yanks from the belayer below to stop the rappeller if he lost the rope behind his back. The PJ who was teaching us had a woman friend that demonstrated coming down the rope full speed and he locked her carabineer up from the bottom of the rope. His jump school consisted of learning the PLF, Looking up and counting to 4000 and pulling the ballpoint out of his pocket. His jump was static from a Jolly Green at a hover.
Got to love the Air Force for they’re no bull course. He also wears flight wings. His statement was, These wings get me up and these get me down. He was a USAF fire fighter for two years and Para-Rescue for two. He is now a DOD fire fighter at Westover AFB. Fast roping is like what we did as kids on the Tarzan rope, using hands and feet as shown in the picture. Usually done with a thicker and shorter rope. You can see that it spirals like the rappelling rope. There are websites that sell fast rope gloves. The Seals are a great believer in this trade. Beats jumping into 10 feet of elephant grass when you can fast rope 25 feet with the full pack.

Thought I would put a little lesson in one LZ we had to jump from about 10 to 12 feet off the ground well a good buddy of mine got back at me because I would not trade my outside for the inside of the chopper, any how he tied my ruck to the pole next to the door gunner when we hit this hot LZ I was stuck in the chopper everyone else was gone except me. The door gunner cut the strap but by that time we were like 20 ft up never the less had a hard landing on my back I guess the old ruck saved my butt my buddy got chewed out big time not just by me but the entire squad sometimes jokes go to far at the wrong time my thinking after that was always check the man in the middle.
Above The Rest!
Ronald Deal

I think it was about a year ago we talked about exiting a Slick at altitude! I sent this picture that appeared in STARS & Stripes of 2-A 2/327th doing just that. I think the chopper jocks had the right idea, by motivating the grunts to get out before the skids hit the LZ and he started his ascent probably saved lives. You are lucky things turned out OK.

Being the squad leader, I was always the last in/first out. My normal seat was in the doorway on the right side ride behind the pilot (or co-pilot) seat feet swinging in the breeze. When we would start our decent, I would put my M16 on full rock & roll and climb out on the skid holding onto the bulk head. When we got down to about 10 to feet I was off and running. I didn’t see any reason to stick around and wait for Chuck to get a bead on the chopper.

When I carried the gun and when I was squad leader I always sat next to the door gunner. When he opened up on final I would always do the same. It was exhilarating going in, no one can deny it, watching the arty shells drop in (you could see the round) the Cobra’s making their rocket run then pealing off, then the door gunner opens up and your out of there… Ten, twelve feet then the bird was going back up but by then we grunts were on the ground.

Great photo. I sure did that a lot. Elephant grass meant that you never knew how far down or what was below you. I had the stuffing’s knocked out of me by the ground and the next guy out. As a gunner we sometimes had to insist the grunts exit with a little shove. Didn’t like to do it, but we had to get out of there since we were so vulnerable and other ships were waiting to land.
All in job.

Glad that I never exited into elephant grass. I did experience some fear filled landings onto LZs where the HE prep made sharp pointed stakes out of the brush and trees. My buddy John Coleman did a hard landing by placing his chin on his 16 muzzle, then having the stock braced on the ground as the full force of his body & ruck weight crushed his chin downward. He’s lucky he didn’t break his jaw or have the weapon discharge! Never needed a push out of a Slick was always happy to get away from that RPG magnet…

You don’t know what you missed not exiting at altitude or in elephant grass. We did both on a regular basis but we would throw our ruck sacks out first. This helped a lot in elephant grass because it gave a quick glimpse of how far the ground was as the ruck sack was falling. It also gave less weight on you when you jumped. It was very exciting especially the elephant grass. Exiting at altitude ( over 5 to 6 feet ) usually was of our own choosing because of a hot LZ and wanted to get away from the slick because it was the main target of the incoming About half of our assaults, the slicks never touched the ground ( about 3 to 5 feet above the ground ) and you exited when he rocked the slick backward to stop and he left the area when it rocked back forward. You had better not be onboard when he left because the slick would carry you back to base camp and report you to the CO. The slicks did put the skids down if you were at a fire base or a base camp but not in the bush.
No Slack

I have exited at altitude but never into elephant grass. Just cutting through the nasty grass was enough of a close encounter for me. Did you see the Stars & Stripes photo of my squad’s gun team? (2nd Sqd 2nd Plt A NS!) I think we often exited from 10′ to 12′ above the LZ. The CA picture was taken in the Hoy Muy Mountains just south of the Red Ball between Nuoc Ngot Bridge and Los Banos. We “air assaulted” into a small LZ on the backside of the ridge, worked to the valley floor and then up to the base of the next mountain then zigzagged back across the valley and back up to the original ridge line. The mountain ended in a finger point about 4-5 clicks south of Nuoc Ngot. Although 2nd Plt had no contact another A Co. Plt was ambushed very near the finger of the ridgeline. I think it was our 1st Plt, Mouse would know for sure? They had stopped for a break along the trail and the NVA threw satchel charges down on them and fired them up. A few days later when we swept through there it look like some of the charges had hit a couple of boxes of 60 ammo, detonating most and scattering 60 rounds everywhere. The was also a lot of spent GI brass, from the return fire and since the area was wide open either due to wood cutters or AO spray, we were able to locate where the NVA had their positions when they attacked due to the spent brass they left. From here we continued our sweep to the end of the finger then humped across the rice paddy dikes and back to the Red Ball. My notes say it was a ten day trip. This was the first CA into the mountains we had made since the monsoons. I think higher up was trying to condition us for what was to come. I know Delta must have been thru here when you worked off of what was then a FSB on Hill 88.
No Slack!
Yankee Jim

That was 1st Pl t that got hit on the trail and yes, a charge did land on the M60 ammo. The gunner & AG were both hurt pretty bad. Both went to Japan and then home. About half of the platoon got shrapnel from the 60 ammo. I missed that one for reason. I wasn’t with them that day, but I don’t remember where I was. I was at the company CP when they came back. The 60 and the remaining ammo was covered with blood.

I thought it was first platoon. The site of the ambush looked real bad, for us. Our people stopped on a trail, in the open. The trail was at or near the bottom of the hillside and all of what could be used as cover was uphill. Chuck took advantage of the situation. I think it might have been a few trail watchers. If it had been an attack in force there would have been many more hurt. As it was I think they threw the satchel charges, emptied a mag each from their AKs and Dee Deed. Funny what you can remember after so many years. I don’t ever recall being anywhere with 3-A.

POP…here…….We exited few times in elephant grass…and some times fire was burning the grass a little on the hot side :-)(-: one of the times they were kicking us out at about 15 to 20′ and that is no shit.. Because I had one of my machine gunners went out hard, and hit hard.. 🙂 and he turned his (GUN) toward the chopper…and Ii hit his gun. Ha, ha, ha 🙂 and he was one pissed Brother…
POP :-)(_:

I just looked at this for the first time. We always were a good six feet when we unassed those helicopters. I can’t remember ever getting off a helicopter when it was on the ground, in fact I used to ride the skids coming into most LZ’s.
I learned to rappel from Doc Kilbrae at Song Mao. The HHC 1/327 was going to have some medics that had line time and combat experience to be a quick reaction force for units that needed additional medics and it was Doc Kilbrae’s job to teach us to rapell. I think this was Captain Mucheler’s the battlion surgeons idea. I used the rappel method a couple times. One time was to recover two bodies of pilots when their Bird Dog met the side of a very steep hill near Phan Thiet Feb ’67. I both hated and loved those choppers…

I think that this was A 1/327 going on some sort of a sweep right after a stand down in Duc Pho in early Jul 67. This would have been one of my first. I guess the birds had to put us out high because of the tree trunks. As we came in I was standing on a skid,( I don’t think that I was as high as that guy in the picture) and the door gunner pried my hand away from the metal tube on his side and I fell out. I thought that they were going lower. Anyway I thought that I fell about 6 or 7 feet. Maybe they had lost a bird while hovering too long???? I never really knew why. This never happened to me again, and I really don’t know why they did it.
Bill Hall ABU 67-68


Free Fall
Sometime in July ’67
Photo courtesy of Ivan Worrell’s “The First Screaming Eagles in Viet Nam”

Reminds me of the time that Thor (A/2/327 XO 1967) busted a door gunner in the chops for trying to push him out about 15 feet off the ground…
Charlie Cato

Dew and I were just discussing how it might be a damned good idea to drill all infantry, airborne or not, in PLFs as you never know when some might be without a rope and be forced to un-ass a two story Iraqi building over the side and still be able to run for cover. We also touched on how it has saved our asses on occasions in civilian life.

The highest jump from a slick I witnessed had no time for cameras. We were being dropped into a purportedly “hot lz” and the choppers had only an uphill slope to hover against. I was with A company. Intelligence had indicated heavy NVA activity on the larger mountain looming above the slope we were landing on. The thick grass buffeted by our arrival revealed punji stakes as the prop blast blew against it.

We were reluctant to jump from 8 to 10 feet hoping the chopper would hover in closer, and our reluctance increased when we stared at the very thick scattering of punji stakes. We went airborne anyway, but one guy couldn’t seem to muster the courage, until the chopper actually began lifting higher and started to fly away.

When he jumped (fell), the chopper was really up there. He probably quickly reasoned he was facing some greater military action if he stayed aboard.

Fortunately the grass, the mud, and the slope cushioned his fall and the punji stakes had been set akimbo by inattention and rains, so he was ok. Full rucksack too. Still, it knocked the breath out of him for a while.

Later when climbing the mountain through thick jungles we had encouintered very strong enemy resistance, (intelligence had been right on, they even had concrete reinforced bunkers up there). After heavy firefights we backed down the mountain to regroup and call for reinforcements. That’s when B Company joined us, by this time it was around noon, and B company had chosen a flatter, seemingly more logical, neighborhing hill as their lz, (also they appeared to be trying to sever NVA escapes routes). They were landing within our field of vision, and apparently their landing zone had been one targeted and anticipated as the “invited” landing zone because all hell broke loose on them. Mortars, machine gun fire, RPG’s. One helicopter was quickly reduced to smoldering smoke and flames, (taken out), and then another, it was really withering firepower. Still other choppers heroically hovered to affect rescues especially of their fellow injured crew members and these provided medivacs as well. We offered as much assistance as possible from our sistance, trying to target the enemy machine gun positions (50 calibre?) with our M60’s, and we called in air strikes as well.

Later, after the medivacs and the regrouping, and with what was left of B Company, we attempted another assault on the mountain. This time about three quarters of the way up toward the bunkers we ran into a forest fire that had apparently been ignited by the napalm and those of us at the front of the column were in a real pickle. We attempted to reverse direction to get away from the fire only to encounter the wall of our own soldiers meeting us marching and stacking up against us. Our yells to reverse direction became more frantic as the fire licked at us threatening to fry us. The rear of the column was distant enough that it was continuing to migrate toward us. It seemed like forever, and flames were hot enough to generate a real urgency. I remember is seeming to take forever the opening trail began to clear with soldiers reversing, but it finally cleared and we were able to run full tilt the other direction. (The jungle was one of those usual tight thick impenetrable masses).

We took some casualties that day but B Company nearly lost a platoon.

It is reasoned that the punji stakes had been planted to discourage us from using that angled slope as a landing zone and was an attempt to corral us toward the hill B company had used. Fortunately for us we had been able to ignore the punji stakes, and this probably had saved us a similar fate to that encountered by B Company. It probably would have been worse for us, since we had been able to make that initial assault that had perhaps shaken their gaurd and softened them up a bit, and it is possible B Company hadn’t experienced the full brunt as well, due to our effots.

This occurred somewhere between June and Sept 67. Anybody else recall this? You know, those days etched in a memory?

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