Air Guard flight crews undergo water survival training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
  • 149FW Public Affairs
     Thirty-five F-16 pilots and flight surgeons assigned to the 182nd Fighter Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base underwent required water survival and rescue training at Canyon Lake.

     Members were briefed on the availability and use of tools contained in their survival gear. The water instruction culminated with an aerial extraction by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, which provided joint training with the Army National Guard's 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, based at Martindale Army Air Field. Additionally, coordination with local authorities allowed for training with various forms of flare signaling devices, which would be used to help rescuers locate a downed aircrew.

     While flight over water is not a primary theater of operations for the Air National Guard unit, the potential always exists. The 182nd Fighter Squadron and other elements of the 149th Fighter Wing are scheduled to deploy to the Czech Republic this fall, requiring these pilots to fly their F-16s over the cold waters of the North Atlantic.

"You train like you fight," explained Col. Kenneth Nereson, commander of the 149th Fighter Wing. "This is as close as you can get."

     Flight crews have to be prepared for the event they are forced to make an aquatic landing or ejection from the aircraft over water. Winds can pull the parachute across the water. Consequently, in the training, members fully suited in flight gear were dragged through the water by a boat.

     They also had to clear themselves from underneath a floating parachute canopy and negotiate climbing aboard both a personal life raft and a 20-person raft.

     The training also involved mounting and dismounting from an aerial rescue basket lowered by the helicopter. Once in the basket, designed to carry two at a time, there is still a potential for danger. Lt. Col. John Kane, squadron commander, said the water can sting their faces when they are being lifted from the water, and sand and gravel can pelt them as they approach the exit point, making it hard to see. All the same, each basket passenger disembarked safely onto the ground.

     The training went smoothly with all members accomplishing the training course. Colonel Kane called this exercise a "unique joint training opportunity" and termed it "a huge success."

(Master Sgt. Gregory Ripps contributed to this article.)