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During deployments, unit commanders can take advantage of the many different units in theater to provide Soldiers hyper-realistic training for ‘what if’ scenarios, like this one, search and rescue for personnel of a downed aircraft over water. The troops aboard the Churubusco, LCU 2013, Landing Craft Utility vessel 2013, from 481st Transportation Company (Heavy Boat) a Port Hueneme, California- based Army Reserve unit will perform the personnel recovery in support of the Brigade for a joint training mission off the coast of Kuwait.

February 13, 2017 - Soldiers climb aboard a survival raft during a personnel recovery training mission off the coast of Kuwait, waiting rescue from the USAV Churubusco, a Landing Craft Utility vessel. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)
February 13, 2017 - Soldiers climb aboard a survival raft during a personnel recovery training mission off the coast of Kuwait, waiting rescue from the USAV Churubusco, a Landing Craft Utility vessel. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

The realism of the training is one of many positive aspects for the aviator and mariner Soldiers. The Aviation Mission Survivability Officer for the 77th CAB, Chief Warrant Officer 2, Evan Kosloski clarifies, “The opportunity is what is exceptional. We train on this equipment a lot, but never really get to employ it in realistic scenarios. We are never in the open water, with rolling waves, being recovered by a vessel and treated by medics. It really drives the point home and that point is; It's not a matter of if it happens, it's when.” Kosloski says the Soldiers need to know, without a doubt, what they need to do and “It doesn't matter what your (Soldiers) roll is; whether an actual crewmember in that raft or in operations coordinating, you need to be sharp, because (when this is real) that’s someone's worst day and lives are on the line. That’s why we do these training events.”

The search and rescue process tests every aspect of a rescue from higher command down to the deck hands and crew aboard the raft. According to the vessel master, Warrant Officer Dallas Hill, Tampa, Florida, “with any search and rescue, the search is the hardest part. Once I find them, it is pretty easy. I have several methods, I can pull the vessel over to the raft or I can send a workboat to get them,” he said. The first hurdle to overcome, getting to the injured from the vessel’s deck into a small motorboat then down to sea level; second and possibly the most challenging, assessing the medical conditions quickly and rendering immediate aid with the small crafts bobbing up and down with the waves.

The Soldiers in the survival raft have several jobs throughout the scenario, besides wait for rescue, they were all given a plausible injury (fake injury bandages included) the mariner medic and crew will need to assess, triage and treat. Simulating lost at sea means the aviation Brigade’s crew needs to aid with their rescue and help those searching by using signaling supplies found in the raft.

February 13, 2017 - Soldiers, Watercraft Operators and vessel medic, for the LCU2013 Churubusco, a Landing Craft Utility vessel from Detachment 1, 481st Transportation Company, California, grab a line thrown from the deck to hoist their mock patient from 77th Combat Aviation Brigade, Arkansas, while participating in a personnel recovery mission replicating a downed aircraft off the coast of Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)
February 13, 2017 - Soldiers, Watercraft Operators and vessel medic, for the LCU2013 Churubusco, a Landing Craft Utility vessel from Detachment 1, 481st Transportation Company, California, grab a line thrown from the deck to hoist their mock patient from 77th Combat Aviation Brigade, Arkansas, while participating in a personnel recovery mission replicating a downed aircraft off the coast of Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

Several of the aviation Soldiers previously have had personnel recovery training but adding open seas to the exercise provides another level of understanding, especially for 21- year old, Spc. Micah Piker, 77th CAB, he said, “It was a very isolating feeling, being in that raft with nothing in sight. When we saw the boat again, on the horizon, we got a sense of relief that we weren’t alone anymore.”

Piker remembers keeping very focused when he lit the flare. He said he had to ‘make sure he kept it away from the raft and up high enough for the rescue boat to see it above the waves.’ The stranded Soldiers also used a dye pack to turn the water a bright neon green to provide searchers with the rafts direction of travel.

Just 2 miles away, onboard the Churubusco, crewmembers scan the horizon, peer through binoculars and make radio calls to command while the vessel master, Mr. Hill, turns his attention from an electronic screen looking for indicators (a blip on the screen) to beyond the bow, searching for any sign of the watercraft.

His crew is young and eager to prove themselves, Mr. Hill says over the past several months battle drills take place weekly, “the trick is coming up with multiple scenarios and realistic training that is not something they see all the time.” Hill said even though his crew is young they handle themselves with a greater maturity than would be expected. He also said the crew gets faster and more proficient with each drill. The personnel recovery mission supporting 77th CAB keeps the crew problem-solving on the fly with every challenge the wind and waves roll their way.

February 13, 2017 - Soldiers with Bravo Company, 1-111th Aviation Regiment, Florida, and 77th Combat Aviation Brigade, Arkansas, grab a rescue rope while participating in a personnel recovery mission with the crew of LCU2013 Churubusco, a Landing Craft Utility vessel from Detachment 1, 481st Transportation Company, California, in an exercise replicating a downed aircraft off the coast of Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)
February 13, 2017 - Soldiers with Bravo Company, 1-111th Aviation Regiment, Florida, and 77th Combat Aviation Brigade, Arkansas, grab a rescue rope while participating in a personnel recovery mission with the crew of LCU2013 Churubusco, a Landing Craft Utility vessel from Detachment 1, 481st Transportation Company, California, in an exercise replicating a downed aircraft off the coast of Kuwait. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

Both crews face and overcome the challenges of the training with a take away not only for the crew of 16 onboard the Churubusco, gaining the practical awareness of performing a grid search and rescue at sea, but also, the aviation crew understanding what to expect during a rescue. For the aviation engineer, Sgt. 1st Class Jena Wilson, who had previous experience, this type of training makes an impact saying, “I was excited, but I knew the boat was coming for us. If it was real…it would have been scary…everything I learned before came back to me and made me more sure of myself and my fellow Soldiers.”

The Aviation Survivability officer, Kosloski, sums up the value of the joint exercise versus classroom training, saying, “This Joint exercise involves the Army, Navy, as well as some Coalition partners in the Joint Personnel Recovery Center in Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Nothing can replace the actual interaction and interoperability that was necessary to make this a success.”

By U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2017

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