POHANG, South Korea -- We've all seen the news about the aviation incident dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson." An airline pilot by the name of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, and his First Officer Jeff Skiles, safely landed a large passenger airliner into the Hudson River after both engines failed in January 2009. These men and their crew saved the lives of every passenger on board. Reacting to such emergencies is second nature for those who are well trained.
Pilots and crew members from the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, are no different as they train to maintain vital water survival skills. These Soldiers had the opportunity to refresh their water survival skills, also known as Dunker training, at a Republic of Korea Naval base here, Aug. 7.
The two-day training event, designed to teach these aviators how to react in the case of a water landing, was given by Korean Service Corps instructors from Camp Humphreys, South Korea. One KSC member explained how the training benefits these helicopter crews for future training as well as real world missions.
"This training is really important," said Kwak, Tong Hyon, a water survival instructor and supervisor with the 22nd Korean Service Corps, and native of Pyeongtaek, South Korea."When a helicopter lands in water, it's usually upside-down, and human beings are used to standing upright. This causes them to panic underwater. We teach them not only how to egress, but we also teach them how to survive on the surface of the water."
The contraption used to represent an aircraft is called a Modular Egress Training Simulator. Personnel across the 2nd CAB continuously conduct overwater missions on the peninsula, making this simulator an essential part of the training process to certify, or recertify aviation Soldiers.
In the heat of training, Soldiers braced themselves as the simulator hit the water in a large pool, quickly filling the cabin with water. Soon after, it completely turned upside down. After a few short seconds, one by one, the heads of each trainee began popping up from under the water, making their successful and daring escapes.
To help escape, they used a Helicopter Emergency Egress Device (HEED), a self-contained underwater apparatus that allowed them to breathe, buying precious time to find an escape route.
One Soldier who attended the training explained why this certification course is specifically beneficial to her and the team she works with.
"With us, especially being on the peninsula, we are flying over water quite frequently," said Pfc. Kayla L. Brinkerhoff, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter repairer, and crew chief with Company B, 2nd Battalion (Assault), 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd CAB, 2nd Inf. Div., and native of Logan, Utah. "It's important that we know what to do in case something were to happen."
Kwak explained the impact this type of simulated training has had on aviation Soldiers he has taught in the past, and why he has a passion for water survival training.
"I heard that one of the Soldiers that received his certification by me, survived a real aviation accident," said Kwak. "When I heard that, I began to cry. I feel that doing this type work is great."
Upon completion of the training, the pilots and crew members left qualified to conduct their overwater flights, an important priority for Soldiers of the only permanently forward-stationed combat aviation brigade in the Army.
It can easily be said, mission success remains reliant on capabilities forged through tough and realistic training. This certification allows these crews to carry out missions vital to the alliance, and the deterrence of North Korean aggression.