Ejecting from an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft; plunging hard under the water, uncovering a parachute, battling the elements and surviving in the water, these life or death situations are risks pilots and aircrew could face when flying over bodies of water.
Airmen assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing participated in water survival training May 6, at the Aqua Hut located in Toledo.
Training, conducted in realistic environments and under realistic circumstances, ensures our Airmen maintain the highest levels of proficiency and readiness for worldwide deployment.
“We are a fighter squadron and occasionally our missions require us to fly over water so it is always imperative to know the hazards before we go into a region,” said Col. Joshua Wright, 180th FW chief of flight surgery. “We train for everything.”
Before the practical application, Master Sgt. Frank Skellie, 180th FW aircrew flight technician and water survival training instructor, explained valuable information on what can and cannot be eaten, how to use the equipment to prevent hypothermia and sun exposure, and how to catch food if help was not going to rescue them soon.
This training teaches the pilots how to land in the water, properly get into their life raft, and get out of the parachute if it lands on top of them.
Due to the size of the pool they could not simulate everything in the exact order as it would happen in real life.
The instructors began the training with a simulated water landing. With their life preserver and harness on, aircrew members were connected to a rope by the harness, pulled hard into the pool and dragged through the water to simulate the real-life situation of a parachute, pulling them across the water.
To stop the dragging, the Airmen had to release the harness and navigate through the pool to climb into the safety of a life raft. There, they hauled in two little backpacks, which are connected to the life raft, containing the supplies needed for survival and tied them securely to the raft.
After demonstrating the proper techniques in the life raft, the Airmen moved onto the parachute portion of the training.
“In real-life if you ever have to eject out of an F-16, your mind would probably be pretty jumbled and crazy, but the idea is not to panic,” said Lt. Col. Michael Holy, 108FW operations support squadron commander. “If we land in the water and the parachute lands on top of us, we just find a seam and slowly work our way out so we don’t end up in a worse situation with parachute cords tangled all around us. That’s one of the most valuable pieces of training that we do.”
Water survival training, conducted every three years, is a necessity to all of the aircrew, ensuring Airmen return home safely from every mission and are prepared for any situation they are tasked with.
Continuous training and stringent safety standards help ensure the well-being of our Airmen and guarantees they are ready for any situation.
“This training is important because it is a life or death situation so the more we practice the more it gets ingrained into us and if it does happen we don’t have to think about it,” said Wright. ”We know what to do and it comes naturally.”