By Sgt. 1st Class Thomas WheelerOctober 28, 2016
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Army aviators are always mindful of what can go wrong while in the air, especially when flying over large bodies of water.
They scrutinize the smallest details of each flight plan and train and re-train to ensure what goes up comes down safely and without incident. But, sometimes things go wrong, so it's important these crews are prepared for every possible scenario, particularly if they are charged with training reserve-component units to deploy.
As the sole mobilization validation authority for all Army Reserve and Army National Guard aviation units that deploy in support of contingency operations, observer coach/trainers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 291st Aviation Regiment, 120th Multifunctional Training Brigade, First Army Division West, recently conducted a refresher and train-the-trainer Shallow Water Egress Training course for their newly assigned OC/Ts.
"Some [reserve-component] units who deploy are required to fly over water and [SWET] gives them the ability and the knowledge to handle a water landing, improving their overall survival rate," said Sgt. 1st Class Byron Brown, Delta team chief and 2-291 liaison officer.
"[Reserve-component units] don't always have the time or money to send crews down to Fort Rucker [Alabama] for three days to get the qualification," added Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Calder, an OC/T and SWET instructor assigned to the 2-291. "So we train our OC/Ts to help them get that training when they get here."
So what is SWET training? Simply put, it simulates escaping a helicopter that has crashed in water and turned upside down.
During the training, the aircrew take turns sitting in a chair that replicates the pilot's seat in a helicopter. Navigating through what looks like a roll cage, sometimes with limited or no visibility, crew members take turns using their safety equipment and keeping their cool to quickly and safely escape.
Sounds easy, right? No so fast.
Imagine yourself in a chair, belted in tightly, and all of a sudden you are upside down, under water, and wondering what exactly just happened. Your heart starts racing as you struggle to find the release on your harness, and that big gulp of air you managed to sneak in before being engulfed by water is running out fast. Panic sets in and, if you don't control it, this might be it.
So do you think you could handle it now? Well, if you ever find yourself in the situation, Calder has some advice you might want to follow. Your life could depend on it.
"If you are in that position, stay calm," Calder said. "Freaking out only wastes a lot of energy and it's just going to get you in more trouble. So calm down, get on your air supply, find your reference point, and get to the surface."
Calder hopes his new SWET instructors take away valuable lessons that will help them when they are training deploying reserve-component units.
"Not everybody learns the same way," Calder said. "Hopefully, by going through this, these guys will pick up on how different people learn or how you train personally affects each person. I hope they're picking up all the little tidbits of stuff to watch for during training, pointers to look for with the upcoming units that they may potentially be training."
Whether it's refresher training for the OC/Ts or certifying reserve-component units heading to Afghanistan, it's about readiness, said Lt. Col. Marcus Hay, commander of the 2-291st.
"Not just for us," he said, "but also for those we are charged with preparing to deploy downrange."