CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit learned how to escape a sinking aircraft during a Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer course here Jan. 6 and 7.
The two-day course provides military personnel with the skills necessary to egress a sinking helicopter and survive at sea until rescued, according to Aaron Gregoroff, lead MAET instructor.
On Dec. 9, 1999, a CH-46 Sea Knight with the 15th MEU crashed during a training exercise. The helicopter became entangled in the safety netting around the ship, and fell into the water claiming the lives of six Marines and one sailor.
“The seven that were lost that day is why this training is here,” said Michael “Scott” Archer, a survivor of the 1999 training accident.
During the classroom portion of the course, students learned how to properly exit a sinking CH-46 or CH-53 Super Stallion aircraft and how to use the Intermediate Passenger Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Device, which is similar to a small scuba tank that provides up to two minutes of compressed air.
“The training is designed for deploying units and any Marine who will find themselves flying over a body of water,” said John Schulte, the site manager.
After classes, the students hit the pool to apply their training. In the water, the students performed different exit techniques inside the egress trainer, or helo dunker.
“The first day in the water was awesome,” said Sgt. Ako A. Singletary, 33, a switchboard operator with the unit. “After a few dunks, you believe in the gear and the techniques, then it all becomes muscle memory.”
The dunker is lowered into the pool and turned upside down to imitate a submerged helicopter following a crash.
“The instructors made everything quite simple,” said Singletary, from Miami, Fla. “I feel prepared. After attending this training, I am confident I would be able to get myself out of a submerged helicopter and possibly help out other Marines.”
The MEU Marines attended the course as part of their annual training in preparation for their upcoming deployment.