NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fl. —
Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 315th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. completed water survival training here, May 31, 2019.
The water survival training was led by Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists who taught members of the 315 AW on how to survive in the event of an open water incident.
“This exercise prepares our Airmen to survive in the water in case of a situation where an aircraft has to be abandoned,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Hanlon, SERE specialist with the 315 AW. “We want to make sure that our Airmen are prepared for any circumstances that they may encounter. Water survival training is imperative to keeping our Reservists prepared and ready.”
40 participants from both the Air Force and U.S. Navy were involved in the training. The Navy provided support in the form of rescue divers and an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter that helped operate in a hoist exercise during the water survival training. Airmen were hoisted out of the water, and into the helicopter to simulate an open-water rescue.
“Being prepared for the worst possible scenario and knowing how to survive it is crucial,” said Tech. Sgt. Rachel Williams, Mission Loadmaster with the 317th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston. “While the water training was difficult, especially being hoisted up into the helicopter, it was necessary to know in case of a situation where we could be stranded in water for prolonged periods of time.”
The training began with participants inflating their life preservers. Once their life preservers were inflated and worn, the Airmen ventured out into the water, where they linked up together for safety and accountability. The chain of Airmen then made their way to a life raft.
Upon reaching the raft, all the participants had to maneuver themselves onto the raft, where they were then given instructions on how to survive in the open ocean with only the supplies available on the life raft.
To train for a rescue, participants then had the opportunity to volunteer for a water survival extraction via Seahawk helicopter equipped with a hoist.
They first were carried far from shore in a small naval vessel out into an open area, where the helicopter was awaiting them. Then, upon arrival, and with the help of highly trained Navy search and rescue divers, participants were hoisted out of the water using a rescue basket carried by the helicopter.
The training served as a key reminder that preparing for unforeseen circumstances gives Airmen tools and confidence to survive and overcome a crisis that they hopefully will never have to face.