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Air Guard pilots from California, Oregon, practice water survival

U.S. Air Force F-15C pilots from the 173rd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard, and the 144th Fighter Wing, California Air National Guard, conducted water survival skills training July 16.

Pilots donned dry suits and prepared for an emergency ejection over water in a campground overlooking crystal-clear Cultus Lake in Central Oregon. They practiced releasing from a parachute while being dragged through the water, extracting themselves from under a water-logged chute, and entering and exiting a life raft.

“It’s a lot of work; we actually start planning about a year out,” said Master Sgt. Brian Vaughan, the flight chief for 173rd FW Aircrew Flight Equipment shop. “There are a lot of permits that we need to obtain from the Forest Service, coordination with the sheriff’s department to book the dive rescue team for safety purposes, then just getting the gear ready and transported to the training site can be a daunting task.”

The list of equipment is long: flight suits, helmets, life preservers, inflatable rafts, harnesses, survival kits, recovery devices, a parachute and anchor system, and the gear to simulate a parachute drag. Someone also had to coordinate a Jet Ski rental for said parachute drag.

This amount of preparation limits the number of events available for pilots to attend, so the AFE shop extends the invitation to other F-15C units. This year, two pilots from the 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno, Calif., joined the Oregon Guard members for the three-year certification.

“It went great, good training,” said Lt. Col. Ryan McLain, an instructor pilot for the 173rd FW. “It’s always a good refresher and it’s good to get some new perspectives. And some of these guys that came out have done different things than we have and they were able to teach us some new things.”

This training will ensure all of the pilots in attendance are certified to fly and train over water for the next three years when AFE will plan another training session at one of the lakes surrounding the Klamath Basin.

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