Seventy percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water, a statistic that makes it necessary for helicopter crew members on post to become well acquainted with the substance. Time after time, after time, making sure they are comfortable in the water.
John Lightsey, an over water survival trainer says, "There’s a difference between water comfort ability and swimming skills we have people that are swim champs, college swim team but it's a total different situation when you put on the tactical gear that the army provides.”
The helicopter over water survival training program or "host" puts trainees through classroom scenarios, how to find your way out if you can't see. They learn what to do if the doors are jammed, but over all, the one solid message is to not panic.
Student Harrison Walters says, "When you come into it you're a little apprehensive from the get go but i mean they teach you everything you need to know and they make you feel real comfortable once you're actually in the water."
Lt. Walters has done his entire host training, but one part. He has yet to take a ride in the H.U.E.T (Helicopter Underwater Egress Trainer) It's a mock cockpit and fuselage designed overseas specifically for training here in the U.S. where contractors many with Navy backgrounds work hand in hand with Army officials to ensure it's done correctly.
Derek Joyner of Lear Services Inc. says, "The Marines are doing it, the army is doing it anyone that flies over water there is a possibility that it can happen and if they get the training they're supposed to have, they can get out. They can come home.”
That brings us back to the H.U.E.T As first timers look on at the thing that will dunk and spin them as if they're going through the wash cycle this time there are lifeguards and divers on stand by... a luxury not available in the real thing.
They're in, then they spin, and while it's chaos on the outside, the underwater camera reveals the calmness the training has instilled. They find the reference points, move, and swim.
Lt. Walters left his first ride looking at the Hewitt in a different light. He says, "It was fun, like being in a roller coaster, but under water."
And while success is always fun, trainers say the real reward comes when someone is able to come home because of the training.
Joyner of Lear Services Inc. says, "When someone comes back and tells you physically the impact that was made and the fact that a life was saved because of what you told them and they trusted you, and they had to put it to an application and it worked you know. That makes all the difference in the world.”