SERE specialist train Airmen in water survival

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman James Fritz
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The hot August sun beat down on the water, where a lone loadmaster struggled beneath the weight of a wet canopy, which threatened to pull him under. Disoriented by the dueling forces of the canopy and the water, the loadmaster must remember his training in order to escape.

Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 758th Airlift Squadron and the 911th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron practiced survival, evasion, resistance, and escape skills at Settlers Cabin Park Wave Pool located in Robinson Township just outside of Pittsburgh, Aug. 3.

Senior Airman Nathan Pritchard, a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialist with the 445th Operations Support Squadron, trained the 758th AS, and the 911th AES in many exercises, from the harness drag to the 46-man raft.

Loadmasters practice the harness drag exercise because they could be required to do an airdrop in an emergency situation. While wearing a parachute, wind in play can turn the parachute into another obstacle to escape from.

“They do the harness drag to simulate high wind situations,” said Pritchard. “The high wind could pull them frontwards or backwards, they have to be able to get out of that.”

They also train loadmasters when there is no wind to push the parachute around.

“Now if there is no wind at all, the parachute can fall directly on top of them,” said Pritchard. “The waves are pushing you up, and the parachute pushing you down with the water. You’re essentially getting water boarded at that point. You have to remember your training and follow the seam and get out of that canopy without panicking.”

Both the 758th AS and the 911th AES are trained on a full 46-man raft and are able to cover the five basic needs: health, sustenance, personal protection, travel, and communication.

“We believe we give the best training, with the most accurate and up-to-date equipment of any unit that we have seen,” said Tech. Sgt. Chris Heaney, an aircrew flight equipment technician with the 911th Airlift Wing. “We provide some of the best training to make sure that what these guys see here is exactly what they are going to see in an emergency.”

Pritchard brought real-world news to the training field to emphasize the importance of the training.

“There was a civilian aircraft that crashed off the coast of Hawaii,” said Pritchard. “They had a lot of the same equipment. They had plenty of time to get out of the aircraft, but due to panic and not knowing the equipment, someone actually died. It’s a real world example of why this stuff is important. If those people would have been trained properly to this level they might’ve not had any of those issues.”

Aircrew are required to have refresher training every three years to keep up-to-date on all new equipment and procedures they might face.

“We practice how we play,” said Pritchard. “Fortunately for most people, they don’t have to play that game. But if you do, you want that practice under your belt so you can make sure you can get out and return with honor.”