SERE puts aircrew through ringer

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stephanie Mancha
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
Being flipped upside down underwater while buckled down to a chair or dragged through the water fully dressed isn't the typical day at the pool, but for some Airmen, this water survival training is crucial and could save their life.

Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists offer a water survival refresher course so aircrews know exactly what to expect in the event they have to eject over water.

Every 36 months aircrew members are required to take a water survival refresher course to stay current on their training.

"Water survival trains you and keeps your skills in case the worst happens," said Maj. Marcus Snyder, 23d Aerospace Medicine Squadron flight surgeon. "They put you in uncomfortable places, well outside your comfort zone. When they have you in a rough situation, you have to think of the checklist to improve your situation.

"Being uncomfortable and working problems increases your ability to work under those conditions. It also gives me the confidence that if I am in a bad situation, I will be able to use my training to the best advantage," he said.

SERE recently held a class at the base pool to equip aircrew members with the right skills to survive in any condition. They ensure aircrew members are proficient and current on operational training with the knowledge needed to evade capture and survive.

"The training is important because it helps the aircrew members become familiar with their equipment," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Dittmer, 347th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist. "There are a number of different stories where aircrew went down over water. That is why their equipment is very crucial for them to survive and return."

During the water survival training, seven aircrew members trained on the use of a helicopter emergency egress device, a self-contained breathing tank that holds about two to five minutes of breathing air. In addition to the HEED, the SERE specialists demonstrated the Quick Don Immersion Suit and various life raft boarding procedures.

"We try to get students familiar with their equipment, review their equipment and have them go through the SWET [Shallow Water Egress Trainer] chair, training on breathing with compressed air and successfully getting out of their seatbelt with all their gear...underwater," Dittmer said.

During the SWET portion, aircrew members were turned upside down while buckled into a framed seat that simulates a helicopter chair. They were flipped four times where they had to use the HEED to breath, unbuckle themselves and kick out the window to escape.

"The SWET chair is disorienting, uncomfortable and a little frightening. You just need to force yourself to relax and think and remember the training," explained Snyder. "Once you relax, everything comes together. You follow the checklist and you are back in your comfort zone."

They also practiced getting out from underneath a parachute and the critical task of untangling themselves while under water.

"We do this training that way if they have to bail out of the aircraft they can land the parachute without causing themselves more problems," Dittmer said.

After learning how to navigate out of a parachute and then swim out of an aircraft, they learned how to survive on a life raft. Here they learned how to board a raft and became familiar with the equipment on board.

"We go through all the different rafts they would see and then practice using them," said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Daubert, 347th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist.

At Moody the SERE specialists train everyone who needs water survival training, whether it's for their job or for a deployment. They provide training for all assigned airframes to include the HC-130P Combat King, A-10C thunderbolt II and the HH-60G Pave Hawk.

"We train a lot of squadrons here; we have three different aircraft, we are always busy," said Daubert, a career SERE specialist of 16 years.

"We also train Airmen from the 38th Rescue Squadron, 820th Base Defense Group, 23d Civil Engineer Squadron and anyone else needing SERE training for deployments," he continued.

Water survival is essential for Moody aircrew to maintain operational readiness. This training helps keep all Airmen prepared to meet the elements in any situation.