Earlier in September, several members of Squadron 188 - and other squadrons - participated in the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) Water Survival Training course. Thanks to 1st Lt Al Chavez and Capt Jordan Hayes for organizing this training and to the USCG for allowing us to participate.
|Pre-Flighting the Anti-Exposure Suits Provided to|
us by the USCG, photo by Lt Fletcher-Hernandez
|Lt Stevulak after a Successful Swim, photo by|
One does not have to be far out over the ocean for this: Crossing the Bay or the Monterrey Bay or other nearby bodies of water at a low enough altitude can easily put one of our aircraft into an extended overwater flight.
On September 3, Squadron 188 members Maj Noel Luneau, Capt Hayes, Lt Chavez, 1st Lt Eric Choate, 1st Lt Gabriel Fletcher-Hernandez, 1st Lt John Stevulak, and Lt Hollerbach met up with the USCG instructors and trainees at Dunes State Beach in Half Moon Bay for a little swim… and some serious training.
|Warm and DryAgain... Pictured from Left to Right: Lt Fletcher-Hernandez, 1st Lt Tony Stieber, Lt Hollerbach, |
Lt Stevulak, Maj Luneau, Capt Hayes, Lt Chavez, 2d Lt Frank Geelhaar, 1st Lt Eric Meinbress, Lt Choate,
photo provided by Lt Hollerbach
|Lt Hollerbach and USCG Teammates after our Swim,|
photo by Lt Fletcher-Hernandez
|Maj Luneau Dreaming of Flying a Helicopter, photo by|
|Lt Choate Learning to Use Pyrotechnics Safely, photo by|
|Lt Choate Surviving in a Life Raft, photo by Maj Luneau|
Besides swimming on our own and in a group float technique, we got in/out of the life raft and inventoried our survival equipment. Besides the ocean portion, we had additional training on the beach, practicing using pyrotechnics safely, building fires and survival shelter, using pumps such as the kind the USCG would provide to survivors in life rafts during a rescue, and other techniques.
Most of us were in teams of 1 CAP member per 4 USCG members. Each team rotated through each of the swim and on-land learning stations.
We were very lucky with the water temperature, which was a balmy 68 deg F. My wet suit plus exposure suit was way too warm - at least relative to what you might expect in the Pacific Ocean off of Northern California! Worse yet, the combination was much too buoyant for me, especially when paired with even a partially inflated PFD/personal flotation device (which, as my USCG team members explained to me, was one size fits all, to include enough buoyancy for the 200-300 lb men in their ranks).
Even letting almost all the air out of my PFD, I could not duck under the waves to swim beyond the surf. Since I love to swim in the ocean and play in the surf, it was both frustrating and funny. Like a little piece of cork, each time I tried to dive underneath a wave, I popped right back up, was inhaled by the breaking wave, and ended up being flung closer to shore than I’d started.
Two of my USCG teammates ended up pushing me underwater in each wave, until we got past the surf zone. I was never so grateful to be held UNDER water in the ocean by two men much larger than myself. Really, they were being helpful, not trying to drown me!
The waves picked up later in the afternoon, and the last team, consisting of all CAP members, had to work a lot harder swimming out to the life raft. To keep everyone safe, the USCG instructors brought the raft in a little closer to shore. Just the same, they spent every bit as much time in the water as everyone else was required to do, in order to pass the class.
Recently, we had a discussion about professionalism and what it means to CAP, so it was still on my mind during this training, and I was very happy (but not surprised) to see that both the USCG instructors and the trainees demonstrated exemplary professional behavior throughout the day. It was a great pleasure to train with them. CAP can be grateful for the opportunity to learn from and together with them.
An especially big thank you goes out to our host, AST1 Aviation Survival Technician Petty Officer 1st Class Jonathan Kline, Rescue Swimmer U.S.C.G, as well as the other outstanding instructors from the Air Station San Francisco: ASTC Moyer, AST2 Hanchette, AST3 Munns, AST3 Bell, and AST3 Santoyo, not to mention ASSF Chief's Mess for the delicious barbecue.
|Capt Coreas, photo by|
- Training requirements and reasons for them
- Operational requirements
- Mission preparations and planning
- Weather information beyond what we might ordinarily obtain for a flight, such as sea state information (wave height, direction and frequency) and what it means to flight planning and ditching
- Special preflighting practices for overwater flights
- CAP limitations and personal limitations
- In-flight procedures
- 406 MHz and 121.5 MHz beacons
- Survival gear
- Survival after ditching
|Photo provided by CAP |
(classroom training materials)
At the end of class, we took turns practicing timed egress from the airplane, in crews of 3, including remembering to exit with a simulated raft, which required some additional crew coordination that most of us are not used to when thinking about emergency egress on land. Not so easy to do in just a few seconds - although everyone was able to do it and meet at the tail of the aircraft in well under the required maximum 60 seconds.
|Classroom Participants, photo provided by Maj Luneau|
If you haven’t taken this training yet, I highly recommend it. It might save your life some day, or enable you to save someone else’s by participating in a mission that you would otherwise not be able to participate in. In the meantime, the training itself is a lot of fun. An alternate water date is set for September 17, so it's not too late.
|SM Sturgill (2nd from left) and Lt Gross (3rd from left), along with USCG|
Participants during Safety Equipment Lecture, photo by Capt Hayes