Taking water safety to Sheppard Air Force Base

Local News

Crashing into a large body of water may not be the most likely way for pilots or passengers to find their lives endangered in mostly arid Texoma. but it’s a vital part of training at Sheppard Air Force Base for pilots who may soon be flying over the ocean on a regular basis.

The water survival refresher course is not just for new student pilots, but all Air Force pilots. Even experienced pilots must have a refresher course every three years. 

Pilots with the 80th Flying Training Wing for the EURO-NATO joint jet pilot training program took a plunge today. Regardless of where they may be stationed in the future, its a vital part of a pilot’s survival training.

The training consists of falling backward, being dragged across the pool, then swimming to safety or until rescue, despite having a parachute hampering their efforts.
Lt. Col. Matthew Manning says this training may never have to be put to use but it could also mean the difference between life or death.

“There’s so much that we do that this is training that you hope you never have to use but you want to be refreshed on it when you need it so this training is invaluable for us,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Manning.

The pilots had to go through an initial one-week long training course and Staff SGT. Joshua Atwell says this refresher course doesn’t have everything the initial training has, but it is a good way to remember the basics.

“Just judging by some of the feedback that I’ve gotten by some of the pilots after they have gone through it. They say it was a really good refresher. It was good to remember some of the stuff that they were taught initially even though they don’t go through the same exact situations as the initial training it reminds them of what they did learn,” said Staff SGT. Atwell.

Lt. Col. Manning says his favorite part of the training is actually the most challenging.

“When they put the canopy over you, you’ve got to just mentally tell you to relax. Anybody that has any fear of the pool or drowning that is your number one fear realized there. You trust in the training. These guys know what they are doing. The training is for a reason and it’s to develop that trust in the procedures,” said Staff SGT. Atwell.

Pilots hope they never have to use this training but if the time comes, they may live to fly again because of it.

The goal of this training is to work on breathing techniques and anxiety tools. It also helps the procedures become second nature for pilots.

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