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Water survival training, a big splash

An MH-60J Coast Guard helicopter piloted by Lt. Jeremy Denning and Lt. John Filipowicz maneuvers so rescue swimmer AST3 Logan Banner can extract Dr. (Lt. Col.) Tom Rotkis from the ocean. Extraction was one part of the water survival training conducted during the July unit training assembly at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego. “It’s disorienting out there, and the rotor wash is amazing,” said Dr. Rotkis, a flight surgeon at the 162nd Fighter Wing. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

An MH-60J Coast Guard helicopter piloted by Lt. Jeremy Denning and Lt. John Filipowicz maneuvers so rescue swimmer AST3 Logan Banner can extract Dr. (Lt. Col.) Tom Rotkis from the ocean. Extraction was one part of the water survival training conducted during the July unit training assembly at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego. “It’s disorienting out there, and the rotor wash is amazing,” said Dr. Rotkis, a flight surgeon at the 162nd Fighter Wing. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

Maj. Steve Haase jumps into the ocean as part of the water survival training. Pilots must complete this training every three years to be able to fly over the ocean. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson).

Maj. Steve Haase jumps into the ocean as part of the water survival training. Pilots must complete this training every three years to be able to fly over the ocean. (Air National Guard Photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson).

A pilot maneuvers his way through a parachute, trying to find his way out by locating the seams. (AIr National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

A pilot maneuvers his way through a parachute, trying to find his way out by locating the seams. (AIr National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Dan Dodson)

SAN DIEGO -- If a 162nd Fighter Wing pilot ever has to eject from an aircraft, whether over land or sea, he's prepared to survive thanks to training provided by the wing's Aircrew Flight Equipment.

Training was never more rigorous than July 12 when many of the wing's pilots, student pilots and flight surgeons underwent water survival training at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego.

"Preparation is the key to survival, and this training prepares me to survive," said Maj. Tony Meyer, F-16 pilot. "We're actually required to complete this course every three years so we can be certified to fly over water."

The training began early Saturday morning with an academic briefing conducted by Master Sgt. Bill Kelleman, a Guard-certified Survival Evation Resistance Escape instructor, at Pier 17 of the Expeditionary Warfare Training Site on Coronado Island. Lessons included everything from avoiding dangerous marine life, to learning how to signal rescue personnel.

Once the briefing concluded, pilots and flight doctors dove in to complete a series of tasks to receive their water certification. It started with escaping parachute entrapment while wearing a torso harness and a life preserver assembly. Once free from the parachute their challenge was to climb inside an inflated life raft without puncturing it.

To add to the realism of the training, many of the pilots and flight surgeons rehearsed a helicopter water extraction; compliments of a U.S. Coast Guard rescue team. The Marine Corps Amphibious Raid Branch provided transport to and from the helicopter extraction point and a safety boat with safety swimmers and Navy corpsmen.

"It was an awesome experience being lifted by the helicopter. The rotor wash is impressive," said 162nd Medical Group Commander, Dr. (Col.) James Balserak.

Many participants brought their families along with them to observe. "I think it is a great opportunity for us to see and learn what the pilots do," said Pennie Stroud, wife of Col. Greg Stroud, acting vice wing commander.

In Guard fashion, where families rule, the event concluded with a debriefing and picnic on the beach, alongside the ocean. "This is great to be able to get all the families together like this," said Mrs. Stroud.