SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
Continuously advancing behind enemy lines to support Operation Inherent Resolve, pilots and weapon systems officers need to have the skills obtained through combat survival training and water survival training. Thankfully, the survival, evasion, resistance, and escape augmentees from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, are there to help the aircrew hone their abilities.
“They already have the tools needed to survive,” said Senior Airman Aaron Ash, 4th Component Maintenance Squadron precision measurement equipment laboratory technician. “We support the retraining process to make sure their tools are sharp and free of rust, so to speak.”
In order to prepare the Airmen, Staff Sgt. Joshua Krape, 4th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist, said he wants the augmentees to go through the same training as the aircrew so they understand the pilots and WSO’s thought processes.
“There’s a lot going on in the aircrews’ mind,” said Krape. “The SERE Augmentees experienced it and realize, for the aircrew, it’s not just a class to pass or fail; it’s a possible life or death situation in the real world.”
During the WST, aircrew are taught how to safely escape from under a parachute in the water, release their parachute while being dragged, and how to survive in the water.
To start the training, Krape jumped off the end of the dock, holding the end of a parachute. Once he was in, then all the aircrew in their boots, flight suits and life preserver units, jumped in after him and spread out the parachute.
Krape then demonstrated how to safely find a way out from under the parachute. The aircrew took turns going under the parachute and finding their way to the other side.
After the last person finished, the aircrew got back on the dock. Two of the augmentees, Airman 1st Class Angela Lambert, 4th CMS aerospace propulsion technician, and Ash brought around a personal watercraft. Krape pulled himself onto a rescue board attached to the back of the
watercraft and, with the help of Lambert, prepared for the parachute drag.
Ash, who was driving it, commented on the strict procedures they need to follow while pulling the aircrew.
“First, we have to slowly move the [personal watercraft] until there is no slack left in the rope attaching the aircrew to us,” said Ash. “Then after they give us two thumbs up, we drag them to around 7 mph. While I drive and make sure we don’t run into anything, Lambert is on the back looking for distress signals and making sure they can release themselves.”
Using a personal watercraft in open water is better than pulling aircrew in a pool, Krape added.
“Being in the middle of a huge lake instead of a pool makes the body have a different response,” Krape said. “It’s more realistic and the aircrew are getting feelings and emotions that are closer to a real life situation.”
After being dragged forwards and backwards, Krape instructed the class about the raft and the equipment that comes with it. He finished with the proper usage of two different type of recovery devices, which are normally found on the helicopters that would be used to find and save the downed aircrew.
Then it was time to test the aircrew.
Using a small inflatable boat, Krape and the augmentees took aircrew from the dock into two different spots on the lake and dropped them in the water.
The first group received the rafts and had to stay in their raft until told to do otherwise, while the second group stayed in the water and waited to get dragged by the personal watercraft.
“All the people in the water need to go through all three things,” said Krape. “The augmentees have gone through all the training, and the pilots and WSO’s are in the best hands possible.”
While Ash and Lambert dragged aircrew across the lake, retired Master Sgt. Vontez Morrow, and Staff Sgt. Joshua Grygorcewicz, 4th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment craftsman, and Krape simulated a helicopter rescue with the rescue devices before rotating the aircrew.
“By rotating the aircrew, we’re ensuring everyone gets to go through all the phases of the training,” Morrow said.
All the aircrew went through and completed each phase of the training.
The mission was a success, continuing the 4th Fighter Wings legacy of being Fourth, But First!