28th ECAB trains for water survival

U.S. Soldiers with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade prepare to be submerged in a Shallow Water Egress Trainer chair, pushed by civilian and military instructors. The Soldiers had to demonstrate their water survival skills by releasing themselves from their seats and swimming out of the SWET chair, simulating exiting a submerged helicopter. 28th ECAB Soldiers conducted water survival exercises during a training event at the pool at Somerset Area High School, October 19, 2019. (U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Michael Girvin)
October 20, 2019

37 Soldiers with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade trained for water evacuations during an exercise at the pool at Somerset Area High School here, October 19 and 20, 2019.

The event, also known as Shallow Water Egress Training or dunker training, built 28th ECAB crew members’ skills in evacuating a helicopter that is submerged in water. They focused on proper use of an underwater breathing apparatus, water survival techniques and escaping a crewmember’s seat while underwater.

One of the participants, Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Shaw, crew chief with Charlie Company, 1-230th Cavalry Regiment, 28th ECAB, said the training helped him gain more confidence in his ability to survive a water emergency.

“It’s a good familiarization for if we have an emergency over water,” said Shaw. “I’m a pretty strong swimmer but even if you are a strong swimmer you can find out where your weaknesses are, and if you are a weak swimmer you can find new strengths. This definitely gives you a ‘heads-up’ and makes you more aware of your weaknesses and your strengths to be able to get out of the aircraft.”

During the main exercise, crew members were strapped in a SWET chair which replicated a crew member’s seat in a helicopter. Instructors then pushed the SWET chair in to the pool. The crew members demonstrated their proficiency by releasing themselves from their seats and swimming out of the chair, simulating exiting a submerged helicopter.

Safety and survivability are important attributes for 28th ECAB Soldiers and their wellbeing is extremely important. Crew members learned these advanced water survival skills in order to prepare and qualify them for future mobilization.

The training was led by military aviation standardization trainers as well as water instructors with the Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team. Dunker training was developed for the 28th ECAB by the joint relationship with PA-HART.

“The unique relationship with our PA-HART civilians allows the military to run dunker training with volunteer water instructors as well as dive masters that prepares our crews for their combat mission,” said Lt. Col. Michael Girvin, director of the training event.

PA-HART was established in 2006 and is a joint partnership between the Pennsylvania National Guard, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and certified civilian rescue technicians. It is an aerial search and rescue team, able to assist citizens during disasters.

Since 2006, the program has grown to add dunker training for both civilian and military members to ensure safety to all crews that fly over water.