The Naval Aircrew Candidate School (NACCS) at Naval Air Station Pensacola (NAS Pensacola) lays a foundation for follow-on training in Naval and Marine Corps aviation for enlisted aircrew personnel.
Sailors and Marines who recently graduated basic training or fleet returnees who are transitioning into the aircrew community have to attend NACCS to learn basic aircrew fundamentals before they receive specialized training.
July 14, 2016 - Seaman Apprentice Chance Ware with other Sailors and Marines currently enrolled in the Naval Aircrew Candidate School (NACCS) at Naval Air Station Pensacola, prepares to escape the Multi-Place Underwater Egress Trainer (Helo Dunker) at the Aviation Survival Training Center. The Helo Dunker is used to simulate an emergency aircraft egress allowing students to practice escaping a submerged fuselage. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni)
Petty Officer 1st Class Chiara Harvey, NACCS Leading Petty Officer and instructor, explains each of the approximate three weeks students spend here to learn what it means to be an aircrewman.
“The first week consists of physical training in the morning, chow in the afternoon and then we take them to the pool to learn all their survival events like tread and float.” Harvey continued to explain that the student's main focus for the first week was to take a “craw, walk, run” approach to the one-mile swim, a pass or fail evolution that can result in remediation.
“Students start out [swimming] with just their swimsuit and work their way up to helmets, boots and gear, like they would as if they were flying. Basically the first week is PT and Swim.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Bellafato explained his first week at NACCS. “I wanted to do something different; I've been in the Navy for almost 14 years. I decided I wanted to fly, so I chose Aircrew to become a flight engineer,” Bellafato explained. “It's a lot of PT, and we're in the water a lot. Some of the techniques in the water I've never done before, so I was concerned whether I was coordinated enough to do them. I've gotten through it, from treading water and inflating trousers to jumping off from the high dive into the water to swim 15 yards underwater. So far I've done well.”
After the first week of physical conditioning, aircrew candidates will then learn survival skills essential to aircrewmen and pilots alike. Students are taught egress procedures among other techniques making an eventful week resulting in an unusual nickname for this particular segment of training.
“The second week is what we call “Disney Week,” said Harvey. “Monday, we teach them CPR and first aid. Tuesday we take them to the low-pressure chamber and teach them the effects of flying on their body. Wednesday, they practice parachute landing both in the water and on land.”
During the second week, Harvey added that Students must learn to effectively escape out of the Multi-Place Underwater Egress Trainer, affectionately called the Helo Dunker.
“Thursday is the Helo Dunker; it's a simulated helicopter crash and the corner stone of their training as aircrewmen,” She further added that not only do the students have to egress out of Helo Dunker underwater, but they have to escape upside down, blindfolded.
“That Friday after the second week, students will do the Multi-station Disorientation Device or what we call the “Spin and Puke,” Harvey added. “It's a Simulator that shows them how their body reacts to motion and to see if they are going to get motion sickness.”
After Disney Week, Students finish the final segment of their training at a slower pace, starting off the week with Flare Fire.
“The third week is pretty simple for the most part, Monday, they talk a little bit about the different tools in their vest that they should carry ending with them practicing flare fire,” Harvey added. “Tuesday is “Tom Cruise Tuesday” where they get all their flight gear issued.” Harvey further explained Wednesday is a team sports day to further strengthen camaraderie followed by graduation the following day.
Cmdr. Manuel A. Cortez, the Aviation Enlisted Aircrew Training School department head, shared that his training as aircrew has paid off multiple times during his career.
“In my enlisted years, I was a rescue swimmer, so the stuff that we learned was put into practice. I've performed four rescues, three at sea and one on land,” Cortez explained. “All this stuff will just come up in your head the second you need it.”
After 19 training days, Sailors and Marines are transformed into aircrewmen. Their next step consists of technical training for their individual job but all hold the common experience - what it takes to become an aircrewman. Harvey explained the moral concept Aircrew Candidates learn while at NACCS.
“Our goal here at aircrew school is to instill the ‘crew' concept. It's kind of an extension of boot camp; we take away the individual [mindset] and make them a part of a team.” Harvey further explains that even fleet returnees have something to learn as well.
“99 percent of what we do here is conditioning. We try to break them from their previous mindset and try to humble them a little bit and show them they have a lot to learn. Being an aircrewman, things are always dynamic and changing like systems and aircrafts,” said Harvey. “Our hope for them is that they can be a part of our team and be ever changing, just like the Navy.”
Courtesy of Naval Station Norfolk
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