442d Operations Group Airmen, NAS Key West members hone water survival skills

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Taylor Davis
  • 442d Fighter Wing Public Affairs

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo.-- Designed for close combat air support, the A-10 Thunderbolt II gets the job done, but what happens when the single seat aircraft goes down over open water and you’re left to survive on your own until rescue arrives?

Pilots with the 303d Fighter Squadron, a unit assigned to the 442d Operations Group at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and pilots with the 76th Fighter Squadron, a unit assigned to the 476th Fighter group, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, a geographically separated unit assigned to the 442d Fighter Wing at Whiteman AFB, participated in water survival training at Sigsbee Marina Key West, Florida, Oct. 4-5, 2019.

Aircrew Flight Equipment personnel assigned to the 442d Operation Support Flight at Whiteman AFB conducted the course, typically put on as a Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape event. Due to limited SERE instructors for the Air Force Reserve, AFE personnel are trained in water survival and go through instructor training.

“The pilots go through this training in the case they’re shot down or forced to eject over water,” said Master Sgt. Phil Youngblood, an AFE reservist with the 442d OSF. “They (pilots) need to survive until rescue can get to them.”

While pilots initially take a water survival course during pilot training, they must go through continuation training every 3 years said Youngblood.

“In order to conduct the water survival training we coordinated with Naval Air Station Key West and Navy Search and Rescue in order to utilize the assets they have here,” said Capt. Steve “Split” Orians, the project officer for the training and a scheduler with the 303d FS. “We not only are able to utilize our AFE instructors, but also the Navy helicopters, rescue swimmers, and rescue boats to make a realistic scenario for water survival.”

During the course, the pilots were re-familiarized with various scenarios they may encounter if forced into a water survival situation. The pilots had to swiftly release themselves during a simulated parachute drag, escape from under a parachute, properly board a single life raft as well as a 20-man life raft, and go through a helicopter rescue.

“There’s benefits to training in the actual elements rather than training in a pool,” said Maj. Clay Quindy, an A-10 pilot with the 76th FS. “It helps tie everything together so that if we’re ever in the situation it will be more familiar to us