HELO ‘Dunker’ online

26 Nov 2008 | Cpl. Melissa McCoy

Just in case Marines ever get tired of the same training, the Survival Systems instructors at the combat training pool here have recently provided a new, vital course.

A modular amphibious egress trainer was recently added to the arsenal of training tools at Camp Lejeune, to teach service members how to react in the event they are in a helicopter that crashes into water.

“We teach underwater egress training,” said Don Hensley, Camp Lejeune Training Center chief instructor. “With the model we have, we can set up as a CH-46 or CH-53, but the procedures are basically the same.”

The whole model is lifted and then dunked into the pool where the submerged trainees must use classroom taught procedures to escape. 

“The only difference between the CH-46 and CH-53 is that in the ‘46, you push the exits out, and in the ’53, you have to pull them in,” said Hensley. “The main points we’re trying to teach them are to control panic and trust the equipment.”

There is no “drop on request” policy with the instructors; they don’t give up on anyone, he said. A student can come back as many times as they need to be confident in the course. 

“We just want you to be able to relax enough to do the procedure,” said Hensley.  “It’s a major confidence builder.  It’s better to learn here in a controlled environment, and at this point, it’s essentially a (Marine Expeditionary Unit) requirement.”

The two-day course features both classroom and practical application training.  In the classroom, students learn basic theory and physics of what happens when a helicopter plunges into the water.  Then, they experience the dreaded, as their “helicopter” ride is cut short and they find themselves on the wrong side of the surface.  Aided by the instructors, the students free themselves from the downed aircraft.

Units can bring their own gear if they wish or use the gear available at the pool.  To make the deal even sweeter, this course is offered at no charge to the unit.

“The course is bought and paid for, so it doesn’t cost the unit a dime,” said Ron Welsh, instructor.    

The students finish the course with priceless confidence in themselves, one another and their equipment. 

For more information or to schedule your unit, call 451-0065 and visit