Thursday, December 6, 2012

Water Survival Training

Lt Louie Rivas, CAP
Operations Officer and Mission Pilot
Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188
California Wing

Crews prepping for their swim. Photo Capt Noel Luneau 
Several CAP members from Squadron 188 and Group 2 were given the opportunity to participate in water survival training provided by the United States Coast Guard. 1st Lt Al Chavez of Amelia Earhart Senior Squadron 188 arranged the fun and very important training session with the assistance of the United States Coast Guard. The Coast Guard provided the training at their training facility on Coast Guard Island in Alameda California.

Aircrew swimming while AST swimmer watches.
Photo Capt Noel Luneau 
The water training exercise was based on the scenario of CAP aircrew members floating in their flight suits while wearing a survival harness equipped with a personal flotation device (PFD). The PFD is not inflated at the beginning of the exercise but successful completion of it requires the aircrew member to swim 75 yards while wearing the cumbersome equipment.

Capt Heinrich Lutz.
Photo Capt Noel Luneau 
This part of the exercise was an eye opening experience to many of the participants. A water logged flight suit and shoes can easily add an extra 30 lbs. of weight to the suit and produce a significant amount of drag while swimming and treading water. Typical swimming techniques such as the breaststroke are not possible so combinations of the back and sidestroke were employed.

The PFD is inflated by the aircrew member after reaching 75 yards, but unlike a PFD that automatically inflates with the pull of a cord; these PFDs must be inflated by breathing into an air tube while treading water.

Some members were able to successfully inflate the PFDs by themselves, while others found it difficult to blow into the tube and overcome the downward pull of their water logged suit and shoes. They were assisted by fellow crewmembers floating nearby. Coast Guard safety swimmers monitored the struggling crewmembers, shouted guidance, and words of encouragement to all.

AST swimmer instructing aircrew. Photo Noel Luneau 
The course instructors then tossed an inverted 6-man raft into the pool. The challenge for the floating crewmembers was to invert the raft, and then climb aboard.

The rafts are designed for conditions such as this and were easily overturned. The real challenge presented itself when it was time to climb aboard.

2nd Lt Mike Cao.
Photo Capt Noel Luneau 

The combination of the water logged suits and inflated bladders of the PFD made it difficult to maneuver and board the raft. The difficulty was pulling oneself onto the small boarding platform of the raft.

One crew member in the water simulated that he was in distress so the members in the raft paddled to him and lifted the struggling airman on board.

In the end, all CAP aircrew members passed the water training exercise and many were overheard to say that they hadn't so much fun swimming with their clothes on.

USCG AST swimmers with CAP aircrews. Photo Noel Luneau 
The California Wing of CAP would like to thank the Commanding Officer of the USCG Air station San Francisco, AST1 Gabe Pulliam, AST3 Max Kaczmarek and AST3 Ernie Child for this unique and exciting opportunity to participate in the Water Survival Training Course.

Pictures of the activity are located here.

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