By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robyn B. Gerstenslager
Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) from Special Boat Team (SBT) 12, stationed at Naval Base Coronado, Calif., conducted a Maritime External Air Transportation System (MEATS) training evolution, Dec. 12, with the help of a Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter.
Typically MEATS is a way to move an 11-meter rigid inflatable boat (RIB) or a special operations craft-riverine (SOC-R) from a point on land or in the water to somewhere else in the water. SWCCs rig the boat to the helicopter as it hovers 10 to 15 feet above their heads and then climb a rope ladder to board the helicopter before transiting to the drop zone, where they will rappel down a line to the boat and prepare to get underway.
This evolution was different: a CH 53 was used with a new different type of sling. Members of SBT-22, which operates out of Stennis Space Center, Miss., trained a RIB detachment from SBT-12 on how to use the new sling. SBT-22 has experience using this sling during numerous MEATS evolutions, using Army air assets and the SOC-R.
"For the first time using a new sling and new aircraft, the evolution was very successful," said Special Boat Operator 1st Class Chris Favata, a MEATS trainer from SBT-22. "We'll be developing new ways to use this capability now that we've proved this can be done."
Having operators qualified on MEATS will add a valuable capability to special boat team detachments
supporting the Global War on Terror, because it allows special operations craft to be picked up at a forward operating base and dropped in the water closer to where it needs to operate, and the craft doesn't burn fuel getting there.
Master Chief Special Boat Operator Miguel Albelo
, the assistant training officer and air operations manager for SBT-12, said that with this new capability SBT-12 has the ability to move their RIBs twice as far as they have in the past, in a shorter amount of time.
"This could be an insertion method or an extraction method to make the "legs" of the RIB or SOC-R longer," said Albelo.
Special Boat Operator 1st Class Chad Fishell, of SBT-12, said this was the first time he'd participated in this evolution and was impressed with the ease and speed in which they were able to complete the transit.
"It was quick. This is an awesome capability to move these boats while deployed," said Fishell. "Everything ran smoothly from start to finish."