Since 2008, deploying Marines have participated in a training course preparing them to survive emergency, underwater egress situations.
The Underwater Egress Trainer program teaches Marines and other authorized personnel to egress from sinking or submerged platforms. Marines learn to employ life-support equipment—such as Supplemental Emergency Breathing Devices and Life Preserver Units—to increase survival rates.
Marine Corps Systems Command’s Program Manager for Training Systems oversees the program.
The Marine Corps has recognized the importance of aircraft egress training for Marines and other passengers transported over large bodies of water by helicopter. Since the egress training system’s introduction, Marines have credited the technology with increasing their survivability.
“Some Marines who survived helicopter crashes credited their egress training,” said Robyn Ingerham, lead program analyst for Range Training Systems at PM TRASYS. “This training system has been a major TRASYS accomplishment.”
“The Underwater Egress Trainer program is vital in increasing a Marine’s or Sailor’s survivability in the event of a water mishap involving an aircraft, amphibious ship or submerged vehicle.” said Reggie Caldwell, project officer for the Family of Egress Trainers at PM TRASYS
Today, every deploying Marine must participate in UET. Trainings take place aboard Marine Corps Bases Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; Camp Pendleton, California; Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and Camp Hansen, Okinawa.
How the program trains Marines
UET consists of classroom instructions followed by physical training. The information they receive in the classroom influences the practical application piece.
“Marines receive a lot of information in the classroom portion, where they learn about breathing in compressed air and other survivability tactics,” said Caldwell. “Then, during the practical application, they enter the pool and apply what they learned.”
Physical training includes the Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer—a generic-fuselage section representing specific aircraft cockpits and cabin emergency escape exits. The MAET functions closely to the general characteristics of a “ditched aircraft.”
The MAET lowers Marines into a pool. Its lifting systems provide a two-speed rate of descent and retraction. Participants can practice underwater egress from the MAET as it is in an upright position, in a 180-degree rotation, or in any position in between 0 and 180 degrees.
The Submerged Vehicle Egress Trainer, another UET activity, is a ground-vehicle simulation comprising the same modular core and rotational capabilities as the MAET. SVET is equipped with modules for the High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle and a generic Amphibious Assault Vehicle platform.
Finally, the Shallow Water Egress Training is an individual seat-type device used prior to the MAET or SVET to introduce water submersion and the proper use of an emergency breathing device.
“Participating Marines are thriving in both the classroom and practical application portions of the program,” said Caldwell. “The program is giving them the skills necessary to survive a potentially deadly situation.”
Marines opine benefits of UET
Since its employment, the UET has helped countless deploying Marines of various specialties to prepare for dangerous underwater situations.
Lance Cpls. Joseph Drewsen and Nicolas Atehortua—combat video specialists with Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools—participated in the UET program aboard MCB Camp Lejeune in March 2020.
After completing an instructional course, they spent time in the pool practicing breathing under water using just air canisters. They also partook in a simulation exercise during which participants egress after their helicopter crashes into water. To replicate a submerged helicopter, Marines are strapped into a modular dunking machine.
“At first, it is a mental challenge to be put in an unfamiliar environment upside down under water,” said Atehortua. “But once you calm under water and remember the training you learned, it is easy to work through each step and properly egress.”
Drewsen echoed a similar sentiment, noting how the UET program was challenging yet informative.
“I had a blast during this course,” said Drewsen. “The classroom portion was engaging and informational, and the practical application was easy as long as you can keep your wits about you.”
Both Marines believe the UET course can benefit all Marines.
“The Underwater Egress Trainer program is important because it teaches Marines to react in an uncertain situation that does not allow much time to think and demands action immediately,” said Atehortua. “This program saves lives.”