SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
U.S. service members assigned to the Joint Task Force-Bravo at Soto Cano AB, Honduras concluded a ten day Emergency Deployment Recovery Exercise in Trujillo Bay, Honduras, Sept 22, 2020.
U.S. Army Capt. Kevin Filip, the 1st Battalion 228th Aviation Regiment Bravo Company Aviation Regiment commander, served as the officer in charge of the overwater survival training exercise. Leading a team of personnel recovery, medical, Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) and water safety personnel, he oversaw three teams as they conducted several training modules consisting of swim confidence training and emergency egress measures.
During the exercise, more than 100 Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-B) service members participated in three-day training evolutions consisting of two days of water survival techniques and a “helocast” to culminate the exercise for each group and validate the skills they learned in and out of the water
This type of training is not something that every U.S. Army aircrew is afforded, as most rotary wing aircrews do not fly over large bodies of water for extended periods. Therefore, this exercise uniquely puts JTF-Bravo personnel in a life-like scenario they might face if they would ever need to egress or escape a downed aircraft.
“This exercise allowed us to conduct highly realistic and relevant training for our aircrews,” said U.S Army Lt. Col Adam Bock, JTF-Bravo’s 1st Battalion 228th Aviation Regiment commander. “During our ten days here, the training not only improved on the capabilities of the task force, but increased our team’s ability to rapidly deploy aviation assets in response to emergencies throughout Central America.”
“Your team is only as strong as you weakest link and if you train until all links are strong then there is no such thing as a weak team,” said Sgt. Damien Wallace, a Joint Task Force-Bravo signal support specialist. “Seeing everybody else being able to do it really encouraged me to accomplish it even though I was one of the weaker swimmers. You want to accomplish it, so when someone in the future comes along you can motivate others to adapt and overcome.”
These techniques can save the lives of not only the person equipped with the knowhow, but also the service members beside them in the fight. It is built for swimmers of all levels and in the process gives all trainees the confidence to perform in a real-world emergency.
“I cannot express how proud I am that all members that have come through this have been successful,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Cory Turner, the Personnel Recovery Coordination Cell director. “This training gives the members the skillsets and mission sets that will help them accomplish their mission and give them the confidence they would need in order to survive for an extended period of time in open water.”
Importantly, the techniques learned in this exercise serve as a foundation for future operations across the joint operating area, including extended overwater flights.
“Over water personnel recovery training is a critical skill we retain here at JTF-B,” said U.S. Army Col. John Litchfield, Joint Task Force-Bravo commander. “We retain this capability because we have to have the ability to respond to crisis not just here in Central America, but also across the Caribbean. We are able to offer an option to the SOUTHCOM commander that he wouldn’t have otherwise.”