Aircrews train on water survival skills
June 25, 2012
One by one, pilots and aircrew members assigned to the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade splashed - boots and all - into the deep end of Gardner Pool here June 20 to complete the first challenge of Dunker Heeds training.
This pre-dunker swim test was mandated by the Army in an effort to develop all crewmember's skills prior to Dunker Heeds, which teaches crews about the hazards of an over-water accident -- what caused them, how to avoid it and if the aircraft should go down, how to save one's own life and possibly the lives of others.
"The whole purpose of it is so you can survive if you ever ditch into an ocean or a big lake," said Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Bruce, the 159th CAB standardization instructor. "Helicopters sink very fast in the water and they want you to be able to effectively get out of the helicopter and then survive on the top of the water until rescue comes to get you."
Participating Soldiers said with a heavy pant that this swim test isn't easy and their actions showed it as many of them gasped for air as if the swimming seemed to engulf them, sinking them to the bottom of the 10-feet deep water.
"I'm ok, I'm ok," yelled Sgt. Justin Kaonohi, a Company C, 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment UH-60 helicopter repairer, as he tries to successfully complete the two-minutes of treading water for the third time. "I want to keep going."
Sgt. Alexander Williams, a UH-60 helicopter repairer with Company D, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, said the dead-man's float was the tough part for him, because after completing everything else, he was extremely tired, due to his boots weighing him and his helmet was tough to keep up in the water.
Crewmembers said this is important to them, because this determines whether they stay in flight status or not.
"You have to have (this training) to keep flying, but it is volunteer," said Williams. "You will not be forced out of your (military occupational specialty), but you may not be able to fly. It all depends (on your unit)."
The pre-dunker training consists of four separate standard events.
"The swim test entails a 25 - yard swim, using the breast stroke only and it is unassisted, two-minutes of treading water, a two-minute dead-man's float, and 15 - yard of underwater swim, while holding your breath," said Bruce, "and all (of this) is with combat gear on, flight helmet, vest and flight gloves."
Of the 52 personnel who showed for training, 31 passed all events successfully.
Bruce explained what it took for those who passed to make it.
Many of the participants did not know what they were up against, so it took them quite a few tries to make it, said Bruce. There were only three individuals who were first round qualified, so one could assume how hard this test can be.
The 31 participants who passed their pre-dunker qualification are now ready to attend the Dunker training -- the Shallow Water Egress Trainer, Modular Egress Training Simulator and HEEDS training -- an Emergency Breathing System.
The training is a two-day course, with two four-hour sessions of academic instruction and two four-hour practical application sessions.
After the Soldiers have completed this training they have a better understanding of why it is important to remain calm underwater, which is so they can find a way out of their situation and save their own individual lives.