MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
Members of the 908th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron conducted water survival training on June 4, 2022, at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.
According to Air Education and Training Command, “Instruction concentrates on the principles, techniques and skills necessary to survive with confidence in any environment and return with honor.”
The training was conducted by Master Sgt. Brandon Klein, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Specialist with the 94th Operations Support Squadron at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia.
“Water survival training is a perishable skill”, said Klein. “We try to do this training often so people can maintain that qualification, but it is also important to help them maintain a positive mental attitude. Having that good mental capacity to be able to withstand aversions or psychological stressors goes a long way. Not having those two things will hamper your ability to survive.”
Klein tested the 908th AES members on various techniques and acronyms, and said that all of these are to be practiced time and time again to ensure the most important aspect of all, which is staying mentally prepared.
“Knowing that you have had training so you can reflect and recall your training can help you from getting stressed,” said Capt. Angela Burton, 908th AES flight nurse.
The flight nurses and aeromedical evacuation technicians first had to demonstrate the three preferred swimming techniques: the modified backstroke, the breast stroke, and the side stroke.
From there, they had to group together and swim as a unit in order to maintain body heat. This was especially important to practice since the average temperature of the Atlantic Ocean is 58 F; whereas the Pacific Ocean has an average temperature that is much lower. Therefore, survival could range anywhere from five minutes to two hours depending on the chilliness of the water.
After pairing up, the groups swam as a unit to the 20-person life raft in the center of the base pool. They followed the SWIM technique: Separate, wet, inspect, and mount.
The first part of the acronym, separate, means to pull apart the connectors to activate the inflation of the raft. Then they are to splash water onto the entrance of the raft (wet) so they can more easily climb aboard. The personal floatation devices have hooks that can sometimes cause punctures, so that is why they then need to use the third part of the acronym and inspect themselves and the raft so as to not cause damage when climbing aboard. The final part of the acronym is to use the entrance to board the life raft.
Once everyone is on the raft, it is time to perform the five A’s. That means they need to ensure they have air, assist one another, find the raft’s accessory kit, deploy the anchor to stabilize themselves against wave swells, and to assess the situation.
From there, the members are to take care of their five basic needs. They are to find sustenance like food and water, provide medical care, acquire personal protection, work on signals for recovery, and then prepare to travel when rescued.
“I don’t think anything can really prepare you for going down in a plane,” said Maj. Schoberle Atkins, 908th AES flight nurse. “But that is where the muscle memory comes in from having the training.”