By Jon Pearlman, Chief Aviation Water Survival InstructorFebruary 5, 2008
A helicopter lifts off from Camp Humphreys and heads out over the coast on an over water exercise. While in flight, the crew experiences mechanical problems and is forced to set down in the water.
The helicopter quickly inverts and starts to sink into the cold, dark water. The crew and passengers have only seconds to egress. They quickly take a breath from their air bottles, open the exit, and swim to the surface with little time to spare.
Thankfully this has been a fictional but all too real risk for both helo and fixed wing air crews here in Korea. However, should such an event occur Soldiers can fall back on their training they received at the Eighth U.S. Army Water Survival Training Center on Camp Humphreys.
The Water Survival Training Center trains aircrews of all types to egress and survive many situations should they have to touch down over the coast or any water the country. This is done with a realistic simulator that puts the aircrew into the water upside down and teaches them the necessary skills to escape.
The WSTC is not just water survival for aircrews. The facility offers a wide variety of programs. Vehicle ditching teaches Soldiers to egress from a vehicle should it role over into water.
Drown proofing prepares Soldiers to negotiate any aquatic obstacle. Aquatic unit physical training is a unique program that gives non-impact cardiovascular endurance training.
The facility also offers basic aquatic skills for non-swimmers and advanced aquatic skills for soldiers preparing for assessments. Most Soldiers have stated that these are some of the most valuable training they have received while in the Army.
The program is operated by a staff of instructors with a wide variety of water survival experience, operated under the watchful eye of Facility Manager Robert Matheny. The facility is staffed with eight Korean Service Corps, with prior experience as former SEALs, Marine Force Recon, and Special Forces. All staff members are trained and experienced SCUBA divers.
"We started with a single chair at an outdoor pool," Matheny said. "We teach Soldiers muscle memory and this gives them the confidence to use these skills in an emergency."
The facility operates by the motto "don't fear the water!" Thus far, they have been successful in training thousands of troops to survive in many different situations.
Units interested in any of the programs should contact Bob Matheny at 753-6353 or email at robert.matheny.korea.army.mil.