Joint training in San Diego sharpens survival skills for 445 AW Airmen

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Patrick OReilly
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Approximately 150 members from the 445th Airlift Wing conducted exercise training and provided support for the mechanical operations of two 445th AW C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in San Diego, California, Jan. 19 through 20.

Airmen with the 89th Airlift Squadron, 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 445th Operations Support Squadron, the 445th Maintenance Group and 445th Aerospace Medicine Squadron participated in the joint training.

The Airmen coordinated with the local Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron-3, HSC-8, HSC-23 and Coast Guard Sector San Diego to conduct a joint agency search and rescue personnel recovery in the waters of southern California.

“The primary function of the fly-a-way is to meet training objectives for C-17 aircrew members of the 445th AW,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Bowles, 445th OSS superintendent of aircrew flight equipment. “Those consist of pilots, loadmasters, and aeromedical evacuation personnel.

“This year’s fly-a-way was unique as we were able to incorporate Navy support in order to meet objective necessary for water survival training competition,” Bowles added. “In addition to meeting the training objectives of the 445th aircrew members, it also gave the Navy support team a better idea of what it would take to transport a large amount of people who are stranded at sea and get them safety to land using helo support.”

During the water survival training, aircrew members systematically exited the 46-man life raft and swam out in frigid 58-degree waters to be accompanied by a Navy rescue swimmer and later a rescue basket. Soon after, they were hoisted up by MH-60S Seahawk helicopters.

“We put rescue swimmers in the water and gathered data on how long it would take in a mass casualty situation for us to rescue upwards to 40 people,” said U. S. Navy Chief Clay Cantwell, the HSC-3 Search and Rescue Model Manager evaluator, from North Island San Diego.

“There were a couple different layers to our training here,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Davis, 445th OSS Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist. “We have exercised the SERE capabilities of our own unit and their retention of TTPs [tactics, training, and procedures] for open water survival as well as the Coast Guard and Navy’s preparation for search and recovery preparation and their readiness.”

“The water survival is a three-year requirement for aircrew,” Davis continued. “They cover a lot of ground and water with our airframe. A lot of time we spend over water survival which is incredibly important. We were able to become very familiar with not only the TTPs for open water survival but familiarization with the equipment as well.

 “If they were to ever need this in a real-world situation they can then recall exactly where to find certain equipment, how to use it, and how to keep their wits about them to be able to make it out of a life-threatening situation,” he added.

Davis said that besides the open water survival, they conducted after capture, urban evasion and considerations and practiced techniques.

“This is the first time we’ve done this here to this scale,” Cantwell said. “Most of our scenarios typically recover two to four survivors at a time. I feel it went awesome.”

The training was a successful learning experience that was vital to building a stronger relationship between the military branches.

“The lessons learned will be commended in our next time around to make the next iteration even better,” Davis said. “We made a strong connection with the Navy rescue swimmers and the search and rescue teams here at Coronado so we can continue to build this relationship and do this again in the future. From the outside looking in, they did an amazing job at that.”