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 News Archive

201AS conducts urban evasion and water survival exercise 
by Tech Sgt. Tyrell Heaton 113WG Public Affairs 
 
 
Capt Shane Buckland, C-40 Pilot with the 201st Airlift Squadron, practices an elbow strike as part of hand-to-hand combat training at Naval Air Station Key West, Fla. Mar. 15. Capt. Buckland was promoted to Maj. in an informal ceremony following the water survival training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt Tyrell Heaton/Released)

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 de-brief.

"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 country.

"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.

3/17/2010