Friday, September 14, 2012

Dunker-[betes]

This week I learned and practiced how to egress from a helicopter crash in water. My sinuses were flooded 15+ times and I was completely strapped in on 8 simulated helicopter crashes...underwater, upside down, without an air source for 5 of the runs, in simulated night conditions, and simulated storm conditions (complete with 85 mile an hour winds, rain, and choppy seas). My goal was to stay calm, quickly locate and/or open my exit, use a reference point, unbuckle my straps and, quite frankly, get the hell out.   

I wouldn't exactly describe it as "enjoyable".

The right term would probably be something more along the lines of "effective".

As in, it was the "effectiveness" of the simulator which granted me greater confidence and fortitude - things most of the trainees already possess, but are attitudes I am still working on, still molding.

I learned a lot about myself during the training - what my body does and does not like to do, how long I can hold my breath, why staying calm is so important, how diabetes and adrenaline are not exactly buddies, and how much of a weenie I am at jumping off a 14 foot platform (yes, complete jumping-from-heights-weenie right here).

But, I also thought a lot about why I was there. In the moments leading up to the simulated crashes, I talked myself through the scenario and tried to focus on someone I knew personally engaged overseas as a member of the United States Army. If they have enough confidence to complete all of the requirements to be a soldier and then are brave enough to serve in a hostile environment, then by golly I could muster up the courage to exit the sinking helicopter...run after run.

I realized that this training was for me - to save my life in the event of an emergency. But the testing I am a part of that requires this training can save hundreds of lives when implemented.

So it isn't about me, or the test pilots up front, or the design engineers at all. 

It's about them

It's about believing in your work and doing whatever it takes (helicopter dunker training included) to do your job to the best of your ability.

Confused when I say "helicopter dunker"? The Discovery Channel video below was taken at the same facility where I had my recent dunker training. This video shows just a small part of the two day adventure.