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Photo Information

Heather Brady (center), a safety diver with Survival Systems USA, takes the practical application portion of her qualification exam at the Camp Hansen Pool, May 24. The Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer course, which is taught by Survival Systems, annually trains Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael A. Bianco)

Photo by Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

Survival Systems provides realistic training for 31st MEU

21 May 2010 | Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit must remain at a constant state of alert as the Marine Corps only permanently forward-deployed MEU. Survival Systems USA, Inc. helps the unit maintain that goal with the Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer course.

MAET teaches service members how to safely exit a sinking CH-46E Sea Knight or CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter using an Intermediate Passenger Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Device. The IPHABD resembles a miniature scuba tank holding as much as three minutes of air and is required for helicopter passengers flying over water.

Since 1999, when six Marines and a sailor died in a helicopter crash off the coast of San Diego, the Marine Corps has made water survival training a priority and has implemented egress training at multiple Marine Corps facilities.

The three-day course includes classroom instruction and practical application at the pool. During their time in the pool, students participate in numerous scenarios in the egress trainer, commonly known as the helo dunker. The dunker can be configured to simulate the inside of a CH-46 or CH-53 helicopter. The training is a realistic as possible; Marines are strapped in, wearing their full uniform and gear. The dunker is then lowered into the pool and rolled upside down.

The training culminates with a mass exit that involves multiple service members having to egress though one exit point while wearing blackout goggles, which help simulate night conditions and reduced visibility under water.

Marines and sailors who complete the course say they feel more comfortable when flying over water.

“As a unit that is constantly deployed aboard ship, we always have parts moving to and from the ship via helicopter,” said Cpl. Corey Fischenich, an intelligence analyst with the 31st MEU. “It’s imperative for us to know how to act in case of an emergency and the helo dunker is a great and fun way to learn it.”

Instructors of the course believe it helps build camaraderie between Marines and sailors who participate in the course.

“We have a lot of non-swimmers who come through the course and graduate successfully because of the team work demonstrated by Marines,” said Heather Lilly, an instructor with Survival Systems. “The service members who attend the course have a lot of fun working as a team, especially when they’re submerged.”

The MEU is currently preparing for its Fall Patrol of the Asia-Pacific Region. The deployment includes participating in Amphibious Landing Exercise 2011 in the Republic of the Philippines and Korean Incremental Training Program 2011 in the Republic of Korea.


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit