Training to Survive

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Charles Taylor
  • 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

More than 50 reservists and active-duty personnel participated in water survival training Oct. 27-30, at Naval Air Station Key West in Florida.


Members from the Air Force Reserve’s 301st Fighter Wing and 920th Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, as well as NAS Key West Base Operations helped hone the pilots’ water survival skills.


“For the training, we try to put the pilots in real life situations where they’re actually in the ocean,” said Master Sgt. Rudolph Panacci, 301st Operations Support Flight Aircrew Flight Equipment technician. Panacci lead the event.


“It’s a good training event to get our guys familiar with open water scenarios.”


During the two-day AFE-spearheaded course, pilots learned how to disentangle from parachutes, survive in a raft and hoist to safety via helicopter in the event of an emergency.


“In Key West, the training is better because you get things you wouldn’t get in a pool environment.” Panacci said. “This is actual real-world training with the water and wind.”


Pilots are required to accomplish water survival training every three years.


“The first time you have to use it, you don’t want to try and figure it out at that time,” said Capt. Andre Golson, F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot in the 355th Fighter Squadron. “AFE did a great job helping us out and reminding us what the equipment does, so I can be confident in myself and my abilities to survive in situations similar to being out in the ocean.”


While pilots learned about survival techniques, the training also provided an opportunity for AFE to work on their skills.


“Each time we do this, we run into different situations that prepares us for the next time,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Beachy, 301st AFE technician. “So the next time we train, we can go over how we dealt with the situation before, and this is how we can deal with it in the future.”


The experience gave most a chance to refresh what they learned before, but for others, this was their first time being in this environment.


“When we’re back home, it reiterates why we have to be so particular about how we put the equipment together,” said Tech. Sgt. Debra Ramirez, 301st AFE technician. “But when we’re out here, we experience what the pilots go through. So it makes it more realistic for us to know and make sure we are taking care of their equipment.”


The goal of the training is to practice in settings similar to what they may face in the real world, while keeping everyone combat and deployment ready.


“We joke around and have a good time, but once training begins, it’s serious and we all take it to heart,” said Senior Airman Addison Schumacher, 301st AFE technician. “We know this can really happen, so we want them [pilots] to know we have their backs, just like they have ours.”




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