Aircrew trains for survival

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Stewart
  • 114th Fighter Wing
It is training they hope they never need, but it is imperative training none the less. Pilots from the 175th Fighter Squadron spent two days walking through mosquito-infested woods, lighting fires, being dragged through the water, and many other survival tasks during training conducted by the Airmen of the Aircrew Flight Equipment team.

"The training is required every 36 months and is a compressed version of what the pilots go through during their initial training," Said Chief Master Sgt. Jim Bradshaw, superintendent of Aircrew Flight Equipment.

Very often the training is conducted in South Dakota but has also been accomplished during various deployments. The two main parts of the survival training deal with survival on land and in the water.

During the land survival portion at Newton Hills State Park, the Pilots worked on evading the enemy while surviving with the limited supplies they have. They practiced navigation to specific way points in the woods using a compass or a GPS unit. They reviewed how to create small fires for warmth as well as signaling using anything from a knife to homemade "fire pistons," created and demonstrated by Senior Master Sgt. Michael Hakinson, a member of the Aircrew Flight Equipment Team.

"If you take a volume of gas and decrease volume rapidly by increasing the pressure, the temperature of that gas gets hot really fast. It's the same concept as the diesel engine," explains Sgt. Hakinson. The pilots took a look at make-shift shelters and discussed how to approach, or more specifically not approach, rescuers.

The water portion of the survival training was no less rigorous even if there were a lot less mosquitoes. At Brant Lake pilots practiced releasing themselves from their harnesses while being dragged through the water by a jet ski. They practiced getting out from underneath a fallen parachute in the water, and using the one-man life raft and life vest, equipped during over-water flights. They reviewed all the survival equipment they would carry with them and its location on their person or elsewhere including flares, and fishing hooks.

"We take the training seriously because in cold water we might only have a few minutes to get into our life raft before life threatening hypothermia would set in," says Col. Matthew Jamison, vice commander for the 114th Fighter Wing. "Thanks to the Aircrew Flight Equipment personnel, their great attitudes and valuable training was pertinent to the mission and we had some fun along the way."

Most of the training was review for the pilots but some techniques were new and innovative. Some of the techniques taught for starting a fire were researched and practiced by the Aircrew Flight Equipment team.

"We always try to bring something new to the table for the pilots," says Sgt. Michael Hakinson. "We try to get them to think outside the box and improvise in a survival situation so we research what's new."

According to Sgt Hakinson, new ideas are found not only in Air Force documents, but also in places such as and television shows like Discovery Channel's Survivor Man.

In order to teach and review these skills with pilots, Airmen from the Aircrew Flight Equipment shop go through the same initial survival training as the pilots, as well as a couple of weeks of instructor training, to learn how to conduct lessons. The lesson plans come down from the Air Force to ensure that all pilots are keeping up on the same basics of survival training.

When asked what he and his team get out of the training, Chief Bradshaw said, "First and Foremost it is just making sure that they have the best training possible. We're trying to keep our friends and family safe in the airplane." He also added, "that's what the guard is, a family, so we take our jobs extremely seriously and give them the best product we can every single day."