25th CAB pilots, aircrews practice perfect water survival skills

| November 18, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Staff Sgt. Mike Alberts
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division

Pilots and aircrew members assigned to 2nd Sqdn., 6th Cav. Regt., 25th CAB, 25th ID, leap from a suspended helicopter mock-up during the unit’s “Dunker HEEDs” training for water survival and egress, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Nov. 3. MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII — Escaping from a submerged helicopter, while upside down, wearing battle gear and restrained by a seat belt with a multipoint harness, can be difficult. 

Given the amount of time the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, flies and trains over water, helicopter pilots and aircrews must be thoroughly prepared for this scenario.

The first 37 pilots and aircrew members from both 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th CAB, and 3rd Battalion, 25th General Support Aviation Bn., 25th CAB, completed a multi-day water survival and egress training program, here, at Kaneohe Bay, the first week of November. 

The training program is not only required by Army aviation, but also one prioritized by 25th CAB leadership.

According to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Joseph Roland, standardization officer, 25th CAB, the Army requires overwater aircrews to be qualified to use the Shallow Water Egress Trainer, Modular Egress Training Simulator, commonly referred to as “the Dunker,” and an Emergency Breathing System, commonly referred to as “HEEDs.”  

“The brigade’s goal is to ensure that 100 percent of our flight crews are Dunker HEEDs, qualified and current,” Roland said. “To ensure we provide our crews with all the tools and training necessary to deal with a (helicopter) ditching situation, we send them through the rigorous water survival and egress training program.”

The training is a two-day course, with two four-hour sessions of academic instruction and two four-hour practical application sessions. 

The academics cover a variety of topics, including hazards of overwater flight; compressed-air breathing; the identification, signs and symptoms of compressed-air injuries; techniques for underwater egress; information on different aircraft types and configurations; and the fundamentals of water surface survival once a passenger escapes an aircraft, according to Michael Davis, principal instructor and site manager, Katmai Government Services. 

“The first practical application session includes breath-hold and compressed air escapes, and training in the … SWET chair,” Davis said. “The SWET chair floats in shallow water, and our instructors supervise students (who are) getting comfortable breathing compressed air and working on egress procedures. After SWET, the final application session is in the Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer.” 

The MAET Dunker simulates what may happen in a real helicopter crash. During the Dunker portion of the training, students participate in six dunks during which they wear seat belts into the simulator while it is submerged and flipped upside down.

“Each student experiences six ditches in the Dunker … with compressed air,” Davis said. “Each iteration differs in terms of the nature of equipment and gear they are wearing, and where and how they egress. 

“The final run requires each student to move across the cabin wearing combat equipment and blacked-out goggles — so that they are essentially blind — and then remove that combat equipment and escape, all while breathing compressed air,” he continued. “It’s tough, but we have them do it for one reason, it improves (Soldier) survivability, plain and simple.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tyson Martin, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior pilot, 2nd Sqdn., 6th Cav. Regt., 25th CAB, and Spc. Christian Grose, crew chief, 3rd Bn., 25th GSAB, 25th CAB, agreed that the training was extremely beneficial. 

“Everyone who has an opportunity to (receive) the training should take it, regardless of whether you fly in helicopters (or not),” Martin said. “It trains you to (remain calm) underwater and to find a way out, which is valuable if you’re in a helicopter … or any other vehicle for that matter. Without a doubt, this training will save lives.”

“Being in the water, upside down, with water going up your nose and into your sinuses is extremely disorienting,” Grose said.

Category: News, Training

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