Soldiers with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, assisted Airmen near Scott Air Force Base, Ill., in completing lifesaving overwater training on June 29.
“We’re doing overwater training for the Air Force out of Scott Air Force Base as part of their [Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape] refresher course,” said Sgt. Blake Armstrong, a flight paramedic with C Company, 6th Battalion, 101st General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade.
Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape training, known as SERE, is designed to help military personnel survive if isolated in a water crash incident. For many of the students, it was their first time participating in overwater training.
“Our students are a mix of pilots and aircrew, basically anyone who flies on a plane and has the potential to go down over water needs to come to this course to know what to do just in case that happens,” said Senior Airman Collin Belanger, SERE instructor. “We … run them through a couple of things — getting out of the aircraft, getting to the life raft, signaling for recovery and how to actually get recovered and that’s where the helicopter comes in.”
Although the training can be conducted without a helicopter, Belanger said that the presence of one helps make the training feel real to the students and familiarizes them with the process of an actual rescue.
“[The] majority of the time it’s going to be a helicopter rescue, so having the students being able to get on the hoist and really feel what it’s like is good so it doesn’t come down to them doing it for the first time ever in a real life event,” Belanger said.
In addition to familiarizing students with using the hoist, the Army-provided helicopter helps to simulate the kind of environment the students would be in if this were a real-life situation, Armstrong said.
“A helicopter in this situation helps to make the training more realistic — whether it be the Army or the Coast Guard they’re going to have the loud noises, rotary wash and a lot more moving parts,” Armstrong said.
The overwater training helped the Army helicopter crew gain and hone new skills as well.
“This helps create new challenges for medics who may have only done this training on the ground,” Armstrong said. “Doing the training out in the open water changes a lot of factors and ultimately creates a mental boost in the training for us.”