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Wing flight crew trains to survive

  • Published
  • By Story By Senior Airman Julia Sorber
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Fog rested atop the mountains, the temperature was in the mid-seventies and the lake had a dreary overcast. Five lifeguards were watching over the lake, preparing for the day ahead. It would be a quiet, relaxing morning at the lake for most, but for seven members of the 193rd Special Operations Group, Aug. 12, 2017's agenda at Mount Gretna Lake, Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania, required a training exercise that could one day save their lives. 

For more than a decade, 193rd SOG Airmen have been coming to this scenic, private lake to take part in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape water survival training.

“It’s the most fun class we do, but it’s challenging, realistic and labor-intensive all around,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matt Marshall, aircrew flight equipment superintendent with the 193rd Special Operations Support Squadron.

Prior training was held at the Middletown Community Pool, Middletown, Pennsylvania, but conditions were not realistic and did not simulate real-world environmental challenges.

One of the instructors indicated that the biggest goal of training at this lake is to give Airmen confidence that if their plane crashes into a body of water that they will be able to exit safely, whether they are jumping out with a parachute or evacuating the aircraft, and that they can survive in the water for an extended period of time.

Maj. Ryan Ness, a pilot with the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, participated in the training with the wing for the first time, and noted that his favorite part was the parachute drag. 

“You don’t usually get to do anything like that, so having a device that can simulate that (parachute drag) was beneficial,” said Ness. “Anything else you can do in a pool but to practice that and know what it’s like to be drug through the water really provides the real world experience that’s needed.”

The mandatory training requires aircrew members to participate in six specific water situations: emergency parachute trainer; the parachute drag; the one-man life raft; recovery device pick up; the canopy-simulated parachute disentanglement; and the 46-man life raft. Also included, as peripheral training, are safety briefings and land training instruction. They must complete this training once every three years.

”It was a fun day,” said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Rhyder, aircrew flight equipment training NCO in charge, 193rd SOSS. “The guys are out of the office enjoying the outdoors and getting to do stuff that they only get to do once every three years that will eventually save their lives.”