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Reserve Citizen Airmen complete water survival training event

Reserve Citizen Airmen from Joint Base Charleston's 315th Airlift Wing participate in a water survival training event held at Naval Air Station Key West, Fl., May 31, 2019. Airmen were taken by boat into open water, far from shore where a MH-60 Seahawk helicopter hoisted them individually out of the water using a rescue basket. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William Brugge)

As part of a water survival training event, participants from the 315th Airlift Wing practiced linking up in the water before swimming to and climbing into a life raft at Naval Air Station Key West, May 31, 2019. Around 40 personnel were involved in the event, which included instructors from the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, as well as personnel from the U.S. Navy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William Brugge)

Reserve Citizen Airmen from Joint Base Charleston's 315th Airlift Wing begin a water survival extraction drill held at Naval Air Station Key West, Fl., May 31, 2019. Airmen were taken by boat into open water, far from shore where a MH-60 Seahawk helicopter hoisted them individually out of the water using a rescue basket. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William Brugge)

A rescue swimmer inserts into the water from a SH-60 Seahawk helicopter during a water survival training event held at Naval Air Station Key West, Fl., May 31, 2019. Reserve Citizen Airmen from Joint Base Charleston's 315th Airlift Wing participated in the event, where they trained on how to be rescued via hoist in the event of any incident in open water. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman William Brugge)

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fl. --

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 315th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. completed water survival training here, May 31, 2019.

The water survival training was led by Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists who taught members of the 315 AW on how to survive in the event of an open water incident.

“This exercise prepares our Airmen to survive in the water in case of a situation where an aircraft has to be abandoned,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Hanlon, SERE specialist with the 315 AW. “We want to make sure that our Airmen are prepared for any circumstances that they may encounter. Water survival training is imperative to keeping our Reservists prepared and ready.”

40 participants from both the Air Force and U.S. Navy were involved in the training. The Navy provided support in the form of rescue divers and an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter that helped operate in a hoist exercise during the water survival training. Airmen were hoisted out of the water, and into the helicopter to simulate an open-water rescue.

“Being prepared for the worst possible scenario and knowing how to survive it is crucial,” said Tech. Sgt. Rachel Williams, Mission Loadmaster with the 317th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston. “While the water training was difficult, especially being hoisted up into the helicopter, it was necessary to know in case of a situation where we could be stranded in water for prolonged periods of time.”

The training began with participants inflating their life preservers. Once their life preservers were inflated and worn, the Airmen ventured out into the water, where they linked up together for safety and accountability. The chain of Airmen then made their way to a life raft.

Upon reaching the raft, all the participants had to maneuver themselves onto the raft, where they were then given instructions on how to survive in the open ocean with only the supplies available on the life raft.

To train for a rescue, participants then had the opportunity to volunteer for a water survival extraction via Seahawk helicopter equipped with a hoist.

They first were carried far from shore in a small naval vessel out into an open area, where the helicopter was awaiting them.  Then, upon arrival, and with the help of highly trained Navy search and rescue divers, participants were hoisted out of the water using a rescue basket carried by the helicopter.

The training served as a key reminder that preparing for unforeseen circumstances gives Airmen tools and confidence to survive and overcome a crisis that they hopefully will never have to face.