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NC Wing Holds Water Survival Training

Members in life raft
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Success! Members from the Raleigh-Wake Composite Squadron make it into the life raft. Photo Credit: 1st Lt Liz Dunster, CAP (click image to view full size)
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U.S. Coast Guard instructors assist with Hillsborough class

4/23/2018––On Saturday, 14 April 2018, the Orange County Sportsplex in Hillsborough was the venue for a Wing-wide Water Survival Training (WST). The event was organized by Maj Jeremy Browner of the Raleigh-Wake Composite Squadron. 

Twenty-five members from 13 North Carolina squadrons participated in the WST instruction given by United States Coast Guard (USCG) Aviation Survival Technician Second Class (AST2) Christopher Fisher and AST2 Robert Emley, who are stationed at USCG Base, Elizabeth City. AST2s Fisher and Emley flew in on Friday evening, bringing with them the raft and survival equipment, so that they could start the class early on Saturday morning - volunteering a sizeable portion of their weekend to do this training. Both AST2 Fisher and Emley have about 14 years of experience flying as aircrew for the USCG. They are also both USCG Rescue Swimmers, and AST2 Emley is highly decorated and has been awarded three air medals for search and rescue. AST2 Fisher explained that part of their responsibility as Rescue Swimmers includes facilitating training for the USCG and water survival training such as the training they were providing to the Civil Air Patrol.

The morning session was in the classroom and was mostly presented by AST2 Fisher. Instruction topics included: pre-flight preparation for extended flights over water aimed at minimizing the risks should a ditch become necessary; procedures that aircrew should follow in the event of such an emergency, including successfully egressing the aircraft; and getting into the life raft. He showed a short video clip of a successful ditch by a light aircraft flying from the mainland to Hawaii that ran out of fuel. The USCG was responsible for the successful rescue of the pilot. AST2 Fisher also spoke about survival gear recommended for over-water missions, including items he suggested that aircrew include in their personal emergency equipment. He showed the class examples of many of these survival gear items.

After breaking for a nice lunch arranged by Lt Col Jay Langley, the class moved into the aquatics center for the hands-on training in the pools. The class practiced egress from an aircraft, using four chairs with straps and clasps in the shallow swimming pool, which simulated the seats in the “aircraft”. Fully attired (including shoes) participants had to sit in the chairs (in the pool), strap themselves in, close their eyes, then undo the straps and egress from the “aircraft”. Maj Jeremy Browner led this session.  

The other part of the practical training, led by AST2s Fisher and Emley consisted of climbing into the lap pool fully attired  (including shoes), swimming a distance, treading water for 10 minutes prior to righting the life raft in teams, then getting the entire team into the life raft. Maj Anthony Green commented after this exercise that “swimming while fully clothed is harder than you think.”

The instruction was positively received by all the participants. 2d Lt Melita Bulluck said, “There is childlike joy in jumping into a pool fully clothed. But that aside, this class was a very timely and well structured training opportunity. It provided good insights that helped me get into a proper mindset that is key to survival when the unexpected happens.” She went on to say, “Physically practicing egress and water skills made me so much more confident that I could do it without panic in a real life survival situation.  Water Survival Training is another awesome tool that dovetails with CAP's goals of protecting life and property.”  Major Anthony Green commented that “we hope to never use emergency procedures but it is great to train for them. A big thanks to AST2 Fisher and AST2 Emley of the United States Coast Guard for providing this training.” 2d Lt Ray Haas described the training as “very good” and “thoroughly recommended” and says he is “glad to augment CAP’s and our squadron’s ability to respond to disasters.” The trainees' consensus was that Maj Browner had organized a great training session.  

The event organizer, Maj Jeremy Browner said, “When Hurricane Maria created a need for help in Puerto Rico, our wing was only able to send a few members because of the lack of the Water Survival Training qualified members. I sought to address this problem by holding this class. We were able to graduate 25 CAP members towards that qualification and will be much more prepared to help with our Missions for America in the future.” Maj Browner went on to thank, “AST2 Christopher Fisher and AST2 Robert Emley for generously giving their time to provide the great day of training for our members, Col Jason Bailey for providing one night hotel accommodations for the instructors, Lt Col Jay Langley for organizing coffee, donuts and lunch, 1st Lt Keith Burley for SET for Water Survival Training, Chief Warrant Officer Delton Stuck, USCG AST/UWET Branch Officer – the USCG contact who facilitated getting the instructors, and Cliff Gordon, the Orange County Sportsplex Aquatics Director who allowed us to rent the pool for the purpose of water survival training."