HomeNewsArticle Display

Kentucky Air Guardsmen test survival skills at Taylorsville Lake

Maj. Todd Franks, a pilot in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, is pulled across Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., by a personal watercraft June 5, 2014, as part of routine survival training. The exercise is designed to simulate what could happen to aircrew members who’ve parachuted into water when the wind catches their open chutes and drags them across the surface, posing the risk of drowning. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Maj. Todd Franks, a pilot in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, is pulled across Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., by a personal watercraft June 5, 2014, as part of routine survival training. The exercise is designed to simulate what could happen to aircrew members who’ve parachuted into water when the wind catches their open chutes and drags them across the surface, posing the risk of drowning. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Master Sgt. Clint Stinnett, a loadmaster in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, trains with a MK-124 signal flare during survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. More than 120 aircrew members from the Kentucky Air Guard completed land- and water-survival training here June 5 through 7. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Master Sgt. Clint Stinnett, a loadmaster in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, trains with a MK-124 signal flare during survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. More than 120 aircrew members from the Kentucky Air Guard completed land- and water-survival training here June 5 through 7. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Tech. Sgt. David Clark, an aircrew flight equipment specialist from the Kentucky Air National Guard, pulls Capt. Nick James across Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., using a personal watercraft June 5, 2014, as part of routine survival training. James, a pilot in the 165th Airlift Squadron, is attached to the watercraft by parachute straps and must release the straps to free himself. The exercise is designed to simulate what could happen to aircrew members who’ve parachuted into water when the wind catches their open chutes and drags them across the surface, posing the risk of drowning. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Tech. Sgt. David Clark, an aircrew flight equipment specialist from the Kentucky Air National Guard, pulls Capt. Nick James across Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., using a personal watercraft June 5, 2014, as part of routine survival training. James, a pilot in the 165th Airlift Squadron, is attached to the watercraft by parachute straps and must release the straps to free himself. The exercise is designed to simulate what could happen to aircrew members who’ve parachuted into water when the wind catches their open chutes and drags them across the surface, posing the risk of drowning. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Master Sgt. Brad Simms (left), a loadmaster in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, helps fellow loadmaster Tech. Sgt. Jerry Passafiume strap on a parachute harness prior to water survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. The training also covered land survival techniques and orienteering. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Master Sgt. Brad Simms (left), a loadmaster in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, helps fellow loadmaster Tech. Sgt. Jerry Passafiume strap on a parachute harness prior to water survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. The training also covered land survival techniques and orienteering. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Master Sgt. Brad Simms, a loadmaster in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, works to lower himself from a training apparatus during survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. The exercise is designed to train pilots on proper procedures should they become caught in a tree while parachuting to the ground. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Master Sgt. Brad Simms, a loadmaster in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, works to lower himself from a training apparatus during survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. The exercise is designed to train pilots on proper procedures should they become caught in a tree while parachuting to the ground. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Col. Christan Stewart, a flight surgeon in the Kentucky Air National Guard, uses a Personnel Lowering Device while suspended from a Hanging Harness Trainer during survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. More than 120 aircrew members from the Kentucky Air Guard completed land- and water-survival training here June 5 through 7. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Col. Christan Stewart, a flight surgeon in the Kentucky Air National Guard, uses a Personnel Lowering Device while suspended from a Hanging Harness Trainer during survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. More than 120 aircrew members from the Kentucky Air Guard completed land- and water-survival training here June 5 through 7. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Tech. Sgt. Jerry Passafiume, a loadmaster in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, extricates himself from underneath a floating parachute during water survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. The training also covered land survival techniques and orienteering. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Tech. Sgt. Jerry Passafiume, a loadmaster in the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron, extricates himself from underneath a floating parachute during water survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. The training also covered land survival techniques and orienteering. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Col. Ken Dale, commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Maintenance Group, trains with a pen gun flare during survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. More than 120 aircrew members from the Kentucky Air Guard completed land- and water-survival training here June 5 through 7. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Col. Ken Dale, commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Maintenance Group, trains with a pen gun flare during survival training at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., on June 5, 2014. More than 120 aircrew members from the Kentucky Air Guard completed land- and water-survival training here June 5 through 7. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron conduct water survival training in a 20-person life raft at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., June 5, 2014. The day’s training also covered land survival techniques and orienteering. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron conduct water survival training in a 20-person life raft at Taylorsville Lake in Taylorsville, Ky., June 5, 2014. The day’s training also covered land survival techniques and orienteering. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

TAYLORSVILLE, Ky. -- More than 120 aircrew members from the Kentucky Air National Guard participated in land- and water-survival training at Taylorsville Lake here June 5 through 7, practicing skills that could one day save their lives.

The pilots, co-pilots, navigators, flight engineers, loadmasters and flight surgeons were required to extricate themselves from parachute harnesses while being pulled through the water by a personal watercraft, demonstrate their use of single-person and 20-person life rafts, and navigate a challenging land course using maps and compasses.

Lt. Col. Nick Coleman, commander of Kentucky's 165th Airlift Squadron, said the refresher course, which is required every three years, is a great review of skills the Airmen learned at U.S. Air Force Survival School, a 2 ½-week course offered at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, for all new aircrew members.

"It's really good to get everyone out and into an environment that you would actually be in, and re-learn and refresh all the stuff that we learned years ago at basic survival training," he said.

The refresher isn't as in-depth as the initial course -- it doesn't include practical experience for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape techniques -- but the participants still have plenty of material to cover, said Master Sgt. Del Brumbaugh, an aircrew flight equipment specialist with Kentucky's 123rd Operations Support Squadron.

Nine Airmen from the flight equipment section staged the training, which covered survival vests and flare signaling in addition to land navigation and water survival.

One of the devices they employed is a Hanging Harness Trainer, a large metal frame in which an aircrew member is suspended above the ground while wearing a parachute harness. It simulates what would happen if the Airman were to become caught in a tree while parachuting from a disabled aircraft, Brumbaugh said.

The exercise requires Airmen to slowly and safely lower themselves to the ground using a piece of gear in their survival vests called a Personnel Lowering Device.

Water-survival training gave aircrew members the opportunity to deploy and use life preservers and rubber survival craft. Students were then pulled across the lake by a personal watercraft to simulate what it would be like if they had parachuted into the ocean, and the tides or wind had begun to drag them across the surface of the water by pulling on the parachute canopy. Students were required to release their canopies to stop the dragging action.

"If you don't detach yourself in a sufficient amount of time, the parachute could actually drag you underwater and cause you lose consciousness or possibly drown," Brumbaugh said.

The crews also practiced using pyrotechnic signaling devices such as the Mark 124, a day and night flare which gives rescue crews a visual reference to a downed aircrew's position. Pen gun flares, which are rocket-propelled foliage-penetrating flares, were also used. They can reach of an altitude of 300 feet to break above the tree line.

The land-navigation course was negotiated using maps and compass headings. After finding waypoints, they aircrew members came to a rally point from which they completed the last part of the course using radio communication.

"The biggest challenge for us is to add as much realism to the scenarios as we can, because the crux of our career field is that we maintain the equipment we hope the aircrew never have to use," Brumbaugh said. "If they are using our equipment, they are having a bad day."

For additional photos, visit our photo gallery.