MAY 11, 20161, MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 conducted underwater egress survival training to maintain combat readiness at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, April 28.
The Marines used a simulated helicopter body while training for different underwater escape scenarios as a qualification to be attached to a Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“There were three stages to the exercise,” said Pfc. Connor Bunch, a helicopter mechanic with the unit. “We had classroom training, Shallow Water Egress Training, and the [Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer] in the deep end.”
The classes covered basic water safety, use of the equipment, and hands-on training and emergency procedures since it was the first time many of these Marines conducted the Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer and SWET.
The SWET is a small, enclosed, chair with buoys that represents a cockpit of an aircraft. It flips Marines upside down in the water, allowing them to practice escaping by pushing through a side window of a sunken aircraft.
After Marines showed proficiency in the shallow water training, they advanced to the deep end of the pool.
The MAET seats several Marines and sinks them into the water as it turns them upside down.
There were three drops that each Marine had to pass while participating in MAET. Marines were tasked with escaping the submerged simulator off the air in their last breath, they had to drop all their gear before escaping and lastly they needed to use an oxygen tank while exiting the craft.
Each drop was unique for everyone because the situation and seat order changed in the simulator to enhance the realism of this training.
“With all that happening at once, Marines can be disoriented and that creates fear,” said Bobby Pitchford, the site manager at the Water Survival Training Facility. “This training is meant to give them confidence in their abilities and their equipment.”
Marines endured this stressful training to give them the skills and mindset to safely exit from a sinking aircraft.
“The reason we start in the classroom and move up to the dunker is to build confidence so they don’t just panic when they are flipped upside down in the water,” said Pitchford. “The craft and gear can easily be replaced, but lives can’t.”