Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Water survival training keeps pilots combat ready

by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/1/2011 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- It was a brisk 50 degrees Fahrenheit when Tech. Sgt. Robert Martin took the plunge into the pool.

"It's not too cold once you start swimming," said Martin, 52nd Fighter Wing Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Training and Operations Survival NCO in charge, as he demonstrated the proper procedures for releasing from a parachute harness to a group of pilots at a local pool here.

Pilots from the 81st Fighter Squadron participated in water survival training July 29 as part of a triennial requirement.

"The training is based off of [Air Force Instruction 16-1301, SERE Program], which requires everyone to meet the same requirements," Martin said.

According to the instruction, pilots must identify pre-ditching procedures, use post-bailout and water landing procedures, determine survival living in an open-sea environment and determine evasion considerations during open-sea survival.

The training varies depending on which airframe the pilot flies, whether fighter, cargo or rotary wing aircraft.

"We let them use weapon-specific equipment so that they know in advance how that equipment works, how they function in this environment and some of the obstacles that they come across," Martin said. "Fighter pilots utilize a one-man life raft, as opposed to cargo aircraft pilots who may have a 20-man or 46-man life raft."

The pilots learned to disengage from a parachute dragged across open water by the wind, disentangle from under a canopy, enter a life raft and utilize a rescue recovery device. They also learned different methods in case they ever become injured during bailout.

"These are things they need to know. So I've got an injury: how do I release from my canopy with an injury; how do I enter a life raft with an injury," Martin said. "All of this is used to build muscle memory in the case they ever had to encounter this."

The training keeps pilots mission-ready, but it is more than just another checkmark in the box, according to Maj. Jeffrey Woolford, 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron flight doctor, who participated in the training.

"With any survival training, you never know when you'll need it," Woolford said. "It's never the right time to realize you don't remember how to do something; this is always welcome training."


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