U.S. Marines are inherently amphibious by nature and the ability to move quickly from ship to shore includes spending a significant amount of time in aircraft over water. In keeping with their expeditionary capability and readiness, U.S. Marines with 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion (2nd LE BN) conducted underwater egress training at the Water Survival Training Center on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Sept. 24.
The underwater egress trainer, also known as the “helo dunker”, is a lifesaving course that provides service members with the skills and confidence to successfully and safely remove themselves from a helicopter that is submerged in water.
According to Christopher Deemer, chief instructor of the Underwater Egress Training Facility on MCB Camp Lejeune, the ultimate goal of the training is to employ water survival skills of increasing levels of ability designed to reduce fear, restore self-confidence and develop Marines’ and Sailors’ ability to survive in water.
“A Marine does not need a certain swim (qualification) requirement to conduct this training,” said Deemer. “We train at any level, anywhere from the bottom-skilled water level to the highest the Marine Corps has. We train them all.”
Demmer said Marines who go through this training are usually Marines attached to a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). However, units can sign up their Marines to conduct this training anytime and typically it is prior to a deployment or future air operations.
The training is broken down into three stages over the course of a day to include: classroom academics, the Shallow Water Egress Training (SWET) and the Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer (MAET) in the deep end of the pool.
The first stage of academic classes covers basic water safety, the use of equipment and hands-on training with emergency procedures.
The SWET is a small, enclosed chair with buoys that represents the cockpit of an aircraft. It flips Marines and Sailors upside down while in the water allowing them to practice escaping by pushing through a side window of a sunken aircraft.
Once Marines show proficiency in the shallow water training, they will advance to the deep end of the pool.
The last and most challenging stage is the MAET, which is a fully submerged, inverted aircraft that seats several Marines and sinks them into the water as it turns them upside down. The Marines take five rides in the MAET, adding rifles after the third rotation and a flak jacket on the fifth one.
“Everybody should have to do this training, just because you never know,” Deemer said. “The Marine Corps honors it for years, but it’s up to the unit’s discretion. It’s not physical at all, but all mental.”
If a Marine is unable to complete the training, he or she is allowed to return the next day and attempt to conduct the training again.
“This is definitely a mental challenge,” said Lance Cpl. Adrian Mendoza, 2nd LE BN. “There is nothing hard about it physically, it is all mental. I was expecting the training to be worse, but after the first round going underwater, I got used to it.”