Fort Benning, local fire departments collaborate for high-line certification

The Fort Benning Fire Department reels out the rope to be attached around a pole during the high-line rescue exercise Sept. 21 on Eubanks Field.

The Fort Benning Fire Department reels out the rope to be attached around a pole during the high-line rescue exercise Sept. 21 on Eubanks Field.

By Gerald Williams, Bayonet & Saber /

The Fort Benning Fire Department hosted local and neighboring fire departments to conduct high-line certification Sept. 21 on Eubanks Field.

“We’re trying to get everyone certified as a rescue technician,” said Ryan Earwood, assistant chief for the Fort Benning Fire Department. “All of these guys are existing firemen. They’ve been in the fire service for an ample amount of time.”

“To be certified with the Alabama State Task Force, or the rescue team of Alabama or Georgia Search and Rescue, these are the core requirements they need to have,” said Earwood. “The operation today will focus on Rope II high-line operations.

“The fire service has technical expertise fields like technical rescue, hazmat and aircraft. This isn’t a mandatory or basic requirement. All of these guys volunteered to take time out of their day to do it.”

Earwood explained that the operation would require firemen to shoot a rope gun from the U.S Army Airborne School’s 34-foot tower to a nearby post. The area between the post and the tower was a simulated creek or river. The objective was to rescue a mock civilian from the river using the rope system.

A fireman participating in the Rope II high-line rescue exercise carefully moves down the rope toward the mock victim Sept. 21 on Eubanks Field.

A fireman participating in the Rope II high-line rescue exercise carefully moves down the rope toward the mock victim Sept. 21 on Eubanks Field.

“We have Auburn, Opelika, Phenix City, East Alabama, Columbus and Fort Benning (firefighters) in this class. It’s a collaborative effort,” said Earwood.

Speaking on the collaboration between the Fort Benning Fire Department and Airborne, Earwood stated that it was their first time conducting the operation with Airborne.

“We appreciate the collaboration with Airborne because it makes it easier to give good quality training in a controlled environment,” said Earwood. “The concrete pillar we shot the rope into is sturdy. When you’re out in the woods and you’re trying to set up a high-line, you have to build an anchoring system to hold the weight.”

“There’s the weight load from the rope, the rescuer, the basket and the victim. Your rescuer is 250 pounds, your victim is 250 pounds and your basket is about 50 pounds,” said Earwood. “This doesn’t count the tension of the rope, which we calculated as 1,000 pounds on both sides. You can’t just use any pine tree for anchoring.

“We know the pole here is concrete and load tested because it can hold tension cables. We want to perform training with the least amount of risk possible.”

“This kind of training is important because we sometimes get requests to help paratroopers out of trees,” said Capt. Travis Jones, Fort Benning Fire Department. “While city firemen may have to cross streets to rescue someone, we may have to cross wide rivers or creeks so it makes our ability to traverse the environment very important.”

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