STUTTGART, Germany - First timers are reminded to breath - inhale and exhale. Then step off. It might appear easy in the field manual, but tough in practice when you consider you're now standing 60 feet above ground wearing a seat harness and holding a rope. It's time to step off. Who said this was fun'

Welcome to the Military Rappel Tower, better known as the MRT, another part of Stuttgart's vast Local Training Area, where Soldiers learn the ropes.

"We want to get guys comfortable up here," said Sgt. Ken Powell, a certified mountaineering instructor and member of the 1/10th Special Forces Group [Airborne]. "We want to get everyone up to a level of proficiency."

Maybe not to Powell's level, at least not on the first day. Powell is a level-2 mountaineer, with an extensive resume of climbing experience even before he joined the Army. Earlier this year, Powell completed the Special Operations Mountain Course in Colorado Springs, Colo., meaning he can teach the rookies.

The MRT has been in place since 1991, when 1/10th relocated its headquarters from Bad TAfAPlz to Stuttgart. While Soldiers, furniture and equipment made the move, so did the MRT. It's an important piece of 1/10th's extensive training apparatus. A group like its B Company Operational Detachment Alpha 022, a team which specializes in military mountaineering, routinely trains on the tower each month.

"We're all airborne. We all jump out of airplanes," said Sgt. 1st Class Josh Whitty, team sergeant of 022. "But we're trained to shoot, move and communicate in the mountains."

In 2003, 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command added a climbing wall to the multi-sided tower with grips for hands and feet. Opposite the climbing wall, Soldiers learn fixed rope rappelling from a skid, which replicates the descent a Soldier might take from a helicopter, such as a Blackhawk.

More advanced rappelling techniques add windows to the scenario, something the MRT is equipped with. Soldiers paired into two-person teams often work together to enter a window. One Soldier might throw in a flash bang, like a stun grenade, to disorient occupants. The other enters with a weapon.

"It's not a live fire structure, but it helps to get the mechanics down," said Whitty.

Whether its knot tying, belaying or top rope climbing, mechanics play a big role on the tower. At that height, it has to be clockwork.

The Local Training Area is the primary training center for Stuttgart-based Soldiers. In addition to the MRT, the LTA consists of a military operations in urban terrain site, demolition range, advanced mobility driver's course, M203 grenade launcher practice training round, a Nuclear, Biological, Chemical chamber and various military encampments, known as bivouac sites.

Stuttgart is home to several deployable units that train regularly on the 1,109-acre LTA, including the 1/10th Special Forces Group [Airborne], 554th Military Police Company and Naval Special Warfare Unit Two.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16