Coast Guard teaches Army shallow water egress training at Fort Wainwright, Alaska

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Charlie Fowler, Aviation Safety Technician and rescue swimmer from USCG Air Station Kodiak, supervises Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacy Shack, an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior pilot with 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, as he inflates his personal life vest during the water egress training at Fort Wainwright, May 2014. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Trish McMurphy, USARAK Public Affairs

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Charlie Fowler, Aviation Safety Technician and rescue swimmer from USCG Air Station Kodiak, supervises Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jacy Shack, an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior pilot with 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, as he inflates his personal life vest during the water egress training at Fort Wainwright, May 2014. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Trish McMurphy, USARAK Public Affairs

Whether it’s a car rolling off a pier or a helicopter crashing into a lake, scenes of sinking vehicles with passengers trapped inside are a common trope in television and cinema. These scenarios are often inspired by real life events making it wise to be prepared for such emergencies.In the Coast Guard, members perform search and rescue, law enforcement, environmental protection and a number of other duties in all types of rapidly changing and potentially dangerous weather conditions. Coast Guard aviation survival technicians are aware that a water landing and egress is a possibility and are highly proficient in training not only other Coast Guard members, but also several Department of Defense, state and civilian entities on how to respond to this type of emergency.

Seventy-four members of the Fort Wainwright-based Army 6-17th Air Cavalry Squadron received shallow water egress training from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak avionics survival technicians at Fort Wainwright, in Fairbanks, Alaska, May 12-16 in preparation for an upcoming overseas deployment.

The training consisted of both in-classroom and hands on emergency escape scenarios in the local pool.

“During the class we familiarized personnel with the aircrew survival vests, egress procedures and survival techniques for while on the liferaft and after the crash,” said Chief Charles Fowler, the aviation survival technician shop supervisor and instructor at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska.

Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Anthony Trout, Aviation Safety Technician and rescue swimmer from USCG Air Station Kodiak, talks 1st Lt. Paul Anderson, an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior pilot with 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, through the steps of the Shallow Water Egress Trainer during the underwater egress refresher course, prior to rolling him into the underwater portion of training. The SWET is designed to train personnel how to safely escape a submerged vehicle. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Trish McMurphy, USARAK Public Affairs

Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Anthony Trout, Aviation Safety Technician and rescue swimmer from USCG Air Station Kodiak, talks 1st Lt. Paul Anderson, an OH-58 Kiowa Warrior pilot with 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, through the steps of the Shallow Water Egress Trainer during the underwater egress refresher course, prior to rolling him into the underwater portion of training. The SWET is designed to train personnel how to safely escape a submerged vehicle. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Trish McMurphy, USARAK Public Affairs

When the classroom lessons were completed the Coast Guard rescue swimmers brought the trainees to the pool where they began hands-on shallow water egress training. The SWET chair is essentially a mock-up of the inside of a helicopter cockpit; complete with a five-point harness and windows. Personnel who participated in the training strapped themselves into the chair and were then overturned in the water. Relying on classroom training, reference points and the survival gear provided on their flight vests, members were required to exit the cockpit a number of different ways. In some instances, their primary exit was blocked or their harness was assumed to be caught and they needed to find another way out or simulate cutting their restraints before making their escape.

Fowler explained that the reason this training is so valuable for the aircrews is that it gives them the opportunity to experience a shallow water escape scenario in a controlled environment.

“This gives them the chance to develop muscle memory, go through the steps in their mind and take it at a slower pace,” said Fowler. “This way, if they do get into a real situation, they will have the training, background and information to get them through it.”

The egress training saves lives, but it also serves another important function it brings rescuers from multiple agencies together.

Overall this training helps strengthen partnerships across other agencies, said Fowler. Additionally, cross service training also lends us the opportunity to learn the capabilities of the different services that will strengthen the way we operate as a whole.

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