A Sailor's Life: Aviation Survival Training in the US Navy

NORFOLK, Va. (WLUC) - In a water emergency, staying calm is everything. The U.S. Navy pushes that message at its Aviation Survival Training Center.

During TV6's Andrew LaCombe's week with the Navy this month, reporters were required to prove that they are comfortable in and under water if a helicopter goes down.

This is part two of TV6's Andrew LaCombe's series, A Sailor's Life.

Click here to watch part one: An introduction to the U.S. Navy
Click here to watch part three: Landing on the USS Truman
Click here to watch part four: Life on the USS Truman
Click here to watch part five: The future of the U.S. Navy

In a real aviation emergency, getting hoisted out of the water is the easy part. Getting to that point takes training and thinking, said Petty Officer Cameron Shaw.

"We see those who are more uncomfortable in the water, they get in and start freaking out and that's where the issues come in," said Shaw. "That's where the lack of proficiency will happen, so comfortability is everything."

Our training started with a swim across the pool - wearing a flight suit, life preserver, boots and a helmet.

"Somewhat what you would wear if you were a passenger in an aircraft," said Shaw. "Just make sure that you're comfortable and proficient in swimming in all of that gear. And then we have you inflate a life preserver just to show that you can do that in case you do go into the water, you will be able to float and hopefully make it so that way rescue crews can come and get you."

The training is required of all aviators in the Navy and the Marine Corps. It's something they must go through every four years.

Underwater, we learned how to get out of a helicopter that crashed in the water - grabbing the correct handles in the correct sequence to open the window and get to the surface.

Then we were buckled into a seat and spun under water. Our trainers told us to keep one hand hanging on to the helicopter window, so we would have a reference point to crawl out. But on my first try, getting unbuckled with one hand didn't seem possible... so I let go, and finding the window again was impossible because I didn't keep my reference point.

"That is absolutely important, especially if you're in an aircraft that's either crashing very hard into the water, something along those lines, if you release before you have a reference point, you're going to be lost," said Shaw. "You're not going to have any idea where you're going."

Our reward for passing the training was flying around the Norfolk area in an MH-60 Sierra. This helicopter performs search and rescue and tactical missions.

"Saving people from sinking boats, to delivering cargo to different ships, as well as employing missiles, hellfires, unguided rockets and inserting SEAL teams into combat," said Lt. Junior Grade Blake Nixon of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28.

Dangerous missions that require comfort in water, so you're always prepared for the worst-case scenarios.

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