3/17/2010 - NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla. -- Pilots and crew members of the 201st Airlift Squadron traveled to Naval Air Station Key West, Fla. to participate in a comprehensive two-day urban evasion and water survival exercise Mar. 14 to 16.
The 201st Airlift Squadron
provides short notice worldwide transportation for the Executive Branch,
Congressional Members, Department of Defense officials and high-ranking U.S.
and foreign dignitaries.
Pilots and crew members end up in a lot of different
countries that may or may not be friendly. This training provides Airman with
the proper skills to get themselves and their passengers out of a potentially
hostile environment peacefully and safely.
"The Congressional recess schedule is pretty
tight and during March there is a lull where we can get our crew away for this
training," said Capt. Dave Shattls, Pilot 201st Airlift Squadron and Key
West Detachment Commander 2010. "Key West provides a perfect location for
this training as water temps during this time of year are warm enough to stay
in the water for two to three hours without an anti-exposure suit which reduces
the amount of gear they need," he added.
This training, which is required every three years,
had SERE (Survival Evasion Rescue Escape) instructors from the 89th Operational
Support Squadron. The 201st Airlift Squadron has their crews on two-year
rotations to ensure that their training does not lapse.
"We showed them techniques to handle worst-case
scenarios," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Indorf, 89th Operational Support
Squadron SERE Instructor. "For instance, in the apprehension avoidance
combatives portion we taught self-defense techniques so if the situation got to
that point they would know how to disable their enemy."
The first day of training Airmen had a practical
scenario where they were to move through town at the direction of a command
post to an extraction point where they were to be removed from the country by
the U.S. embassy.
As night fell pilots and crew members navigated the
streets in small groups, meeting contacts, and arranging a specific extraction
point all while evading enemy forces.
"We want to start by getting the crew back
together and getting away from where you are ... the method of extraction may
be different than you expect," said Capt. Shattls. "Flexibility is
needed as things change; we always have a contingency."
This particular scenario had the crew fall into a
trap at their rendezvous point where they were picked up by hostile forces and
taken into a hostage situation. Hoods were placed on the Airmen's heads and
they were driven to an abandoned warehouse. During this time instructors put
the crew through various scenarios and concluded the exercise with a thorough
"We don't take our passengers to wooded areas,
the places we go to are mostly urban and we stay with our passengers ... if
something were to happen where we needed to evade a bad situation we would be
in town where there are buildings, people, police; a wooded training scenario
is not applicable for 90 percent of our missions, so coming to Key West to
conduct urban evasion is a more realistic scenario," said Capt. Shattls.
The second day of training Airmen went through
hand-to-hand combat training, a CPR refresher course, the Self-Aid Buddy Care
full course, and life support equipment refresher training which included
signaling devices, flares, and raft equipment.
Airmen received a scenario where they had to manually
inflate their personal life vests, get away from a sinking aircraft, and swim
to survival rafts.
"Aircrews have so much on their plate ... this
type of training is important and needs to be refreshed," said Master Sgt.
Chris Hager, 201st Airlift Squadron. "There are new types of equipment;
for instance, we have a new raft for the C-38, an AC9, which has a different
capability and Airmen need to be familiar with the raft they would use in an
emergency situation," he added.
Capt. Shattls has met with Defense Attaché Offices
from around the world to discuss what could happen to crews in their respective
"I took all the information I gathered to create
scenarios; the end result of training (with these scenarios) is to have their
eyes wide open, their brains turned on, so the next time they go on a trip they
are thinking about what could happen, what's around me and who is around me if
something goes wrong and what would I do right now," said Capt. Shattls.