The Ocean Makes Cowards of Us All: 172nd Conducts Water Survival Training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jared Bounds
  • 172nd Airlift Wing

The Earth’s oceans cover more than 70 percent of the planet’s surface. Due to the nature of the 172nd Airlift Wing’s mission of global airlift capability, it is essential for aircrews to be able to survive should a C-17 Globemaster III need to ditch over the sea. To ensure Airmen can survive adrift for longer periods, members of the 183rd Airlift Squadron, Jackson, Mississippi, completed their required water survival training April 1-3, 2023.

Each day was split into classroom and practical application. In class, crewmembers were briefed on survival equipment such as their life raft, canopy, signal devices, food and water. Once familiarized with their gear, the crew leapt into an Olympic-sized pool, swam to a pre-inflated life raft and were given their lesson on how to defy the elements while adrift at sea.

“Aircrews are expected to survive for days in a rescue life raft, even weeks in extreme cases,” said Master Sgt. Jake Lyons, the aircrew training continuation lead instructor with the 172nd Aircrew Flight Equipment shop.

Not only does the 172nd AFE imbue expert knowledge of survival equipment, but they drive home the importance of mental fortitude in a survival situation. “We get them to understand they can absolutely go one more day,” said Lyons.

The training emphasizes the importance of staying busy and active while expecting rescue. “The mental aspect of any survival scenario is key, but being adrift presents a unique set of circumstances,” said Master Sgt. Jeff Campbell, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor with the 185th Air Refueling Wing, Sioux City, Iowa.

Campbell said a crew’s mindset during a water survival scenario should remain positive. “You have to keep the bigger picture in mind; remember that your position and aircraft are being tracked and that you will be rescued,” said Campbell.

While a single Airman can maintain a raft, the expectation is to protect a team of Airmen. “The best advice we can give the crews is to look out for each other and remember they’re part of a team,” said Lyons.

That team mindset stays with crews long after they leave the training raft. “This training strengthens the value of life and the concepts of being prepared,” said Lyons.

Whether it’s keeping some bottled water in your vehicle for roadside emergencies, offering a helping hand or just actively engaging with the Airmen around you, water survival training teaches more than just learning how to survive; it teaches how to be a better Airman.