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NEWS | May 5, 2011

JB CHS conducts water survival training

By Airman 1st Class Jared Trimarchi Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Ten Airmen from Joint Base Charleston attended a seven-hour water survival training course May 2, at the Charleston Harbor to keep their flying status current.

All pilots and crew members must take the water training course every three years to maintain their flying status and to ensure they are prepared to handle mishaps that leave them stranded in water. The course is offered at JB CHS twice a month.

"The course is held in the spring and summer months and is designed to teach Airmen how to survive in the middle of a large body of water in case of an emergency water landing," said Staff Sgt. Anthony Barrette, Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) specialist from the 437th Operations Support Squadron. "The course begins with an hour long refresher lecture where I go over safety precautions, safety equipment and safety techniques."

After the lecture, Airmen were handed their safety equipment including a helmet, a parachute harness and a flotation device. Then they headed to the Charleston Harbor.

"The weather was perfect and the water temperature was in the high 70's, so the Airmen were not required to wear wet suits," Sergeant Barrette said.

At the boat dock on Daniel Island, Sergeant Barrette and two SERE augmentees put a Zodiac inflatable boat, a 46-man life raft tied to a one-man life raft and a parachute into the water.

Airman there had three main tasks to accomplish to pass the course.

"First, the Airmen have to experience being dragged by a parachute in water," Sergeant Barrette said. "One-by-one they jump off the side of the Zodiac and are dragged by their parachute harness at about four nautical miles per hour. Once they experience the effect of being dragged, they must flip on their backs, dig in with their heels and release the parachute harness."

The second task the Airmen had to accomplish was to board a 46-man life raft and a one-man life raft after being dropped into the water. The Airmen climbed into the 46-man raft without much struggle thanks to the design of the side steps and a helping hand from their wingman, but the one-man raft was a one-man show.

"To board the one-man raft, Airmen are taught the Soften, Lubricate, Inspect and Pull or SLIP procedure," Sergeant Barrette said. "When the water is rough, the easiest way to pull yourself in is to use the swim method, but the water was calm so using a knee to climb aboard was preferred.

The third task, and hardest for some, was pulling themselves out from under a parachute to simulate one that landed on top of them in the water.

"In a real life scenario this can be extremely dangerous if a person is tangled in the line from the parachute," Sergeant Barrette said. "That's why there is a knife attached to each harness."

At the end of the day every Airman who participated passed and left a little more tan than when they first arrived.

"It was a great class and everything went smooth," Sergeant Barrette said. "These Airmen fly over water all the time and you never know when this type of survival training will come in handy."