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Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command Sailor Trains for Overflight Emergencies to Enhance Dynamic Mission Mobility
by Ensign Nicholas Danby
04 August 2021
PATUXENT RIVER, Md. --
Despite the arduous challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command (NEIC) remains vigilant in training its Sailors to enhance their mission flexibility when deployed throughout the world.
Recently, one of many NEIC Sailors, Cryptologic Technician Collection 1
Class Cody Dodd, managed to escape a submerged helicopter more than seven times.
At the Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC) in Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Dodd, who is assigned to an NEIC Intelligence Exploitation Team (IET), entered simulated airframe cockpits and crew compartments to improve his underwater escape and survival skills during the Non-Aircrew Underwater Egress Training course, also known as the “Helo Dunker.”
“More than anything, the course was as thrilling as it was educational,” Dodd said. “After attending, I undoubtedly feel more confident in my ability to handle myself during an emergency in a helicopter. The experience also allowed me to test my ‘escape skills’ and meet other students from diverse backgrounds in order to share a common experience. It was the best kind of course: I learned and I had fun.”
Dodd, who serves as a Tactical Electronics Warfare (TAC-EW) operator for his respective IET, will become a force multiplier by providing capabilities inorganic to platforms within a theater. These capabilities enable NEIC sailors to creatively pursue answers to Fleet intelligence requirements.
These capabilities also enhance the Fleet’s intelligence preparation of the operational environment (IPOE), satisfy Fleet intelligence requirements, and enhance battlespace awareness.
In return, naval aircraft allow TAC-EW operators to board a flight, execute their mission, and return to their IET all in under 24 hours.
None of that can happen, however, without the underwater egress training.
Practice and knowledge of emergency procedures will save not only Dodd’s life, but also the lives of their future crew members. If a Sailor never trains for an unfortunate eventuality, he or she will not know how to safely and properly react if that eventuality were to occur.
As NEIC Chief Cryptologic Technician Collection Derek Stevens, who previously attended the course, explained, “After you complete the training, you can tell yourself, ‘I know how to get out of aircraft that crashed into the water.’ Instead of panicking, I know where to go and how to leave. ‘Practice makes perfect.’”
The underwater egress training offers no shortage of practice.
After learning about safety and emergency procedures, Dodd and other Sailors attending the course moved from the classroom to the swimming pool where they swam 300 yards and floated for two minutes using only their legs. To replicate real flight egress conditions, the Sailors wore a flight suit, boots, and a crash helmet during both evolutions.
The Sailors were then strapped into a chair within the Shallow Water Egress Trainer (SWET). The small enclosed chair, which resembles a helicopter cockpit, tipped the Sailors backwards and sideways into the pool. The Sailors executed each iteration both with and without blackout goggles to simulate different times of day.
“This training drives mission flexibility by enabling our TAC-EW collectors to operate during day or night flights to support Fleet requirements,” said CDR Devron L. Eakins, commanding officer of NEIC.
For the final evolution, Sailors egressed the sunken helicopter three times—each from a different location in the simulated crew compartment.
By the course’s end, Dodd felt confident. That means the “Helo Dunker” accomplished its mission.
“Crashes are undoubtedly confusing. Practicing a crash from different locations in an airframe ensures that Sailors like myself can confront that complexity with knowledge and experience. Now, in the event of an emergency, I know how to react no matter where I sit during a mission,” Dodd explained.
“The underwater egress training allows our TAC-EW/SIGINT collectors to build self-reliance when operating on airborne platforms in the maritime environment,” Eakins added.
ASTC Patuxent River is a training location within the Naval Survival Training Institute (NSTI), whose mission is to provide safe, effective, and relevant aviation survival and human performance training as the execution arm of the Chief of Naval Operations-mandated Naval Aviation Survival Training Program (NASTP).
NSTI is a detachment of the Navy Medicine Operational Training Command (NMOTC). The mission of NMOTC is to provide training for operational medicine and aviation survival. Support the Fleet and Fleet Marine Force with operational medicine consultative services, conduct education and training programs for medical department personnel in various operational medicine disciplines and ensure the readiness of operational forces by providing aviation survival training.
NMOTC supports NEIC Sailors by providing specialized intelligence capabilities that enable Navy and Joint commanders to build battle-space multi-domain awareness and win decisively in Major Combat Operations as part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Force (NECF).
The NECF is postured to anticipate and rapidly respond to the changing security environment. NECF’s warfighting capabilities as a whole are greater than the sum of its individual parts, and we ensure the integrated naval force continues to dominate on the high seas and across the littorals in an era of Great Power Competition. The NECF is manned, trained, and equipped to clear, secure, build, and protect critical assets and waterways in order to execute full spectrum military operations in support of the Fleet and Joint Force.
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