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Sailors in helicopters train to survive worst-case scenarios

University of Miami graduate trains sailors
Navy helicopter
Posted at 4:30 PM, Feb 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-20 10:52:08-05

NORFOLK, Va. — Being a sailor comes with risks and the Navy trains them to prepare for some of the risks. Things can go wrong whether they're on the water or in the air. With training, sailors learn how to survive what could be the worst-case scenario.

Any sailor who's in an aircraft must go through specific training. Some courses are physical activities while others are learning opportunities.

"What we do here is pretty straightforward, but it's a puzzle piece," said Lt. Amos Meyers. " For better or worst, the human system is the adaptable system."

Meyers teaches sailors physiology, showing them what happens to the body while flying or in stressful situations. The sailor came from Florida to teach others.

"I finished my Ph.D. at the University of Miami, and graduated in August 2014," Meyers said.

With his education, he trains sailors how to stay calm and what their body will go through in potentially life-changing situations.

"What I don’t want you to do is do this for the first time in a real-life scenario," Meyers said.

The scenario: the helicopter a sailor is in crashes in the water. To survive, the sailor has to get out safely after the helicopter completely submerges. Then, sailors must float while waiting for help.

This training is something Fox 4's Kaitlin Knapp got to experience first-hand by swimming 25 yards in a flight suit. After the swim, a technique is used to stay above water.

"You’re going to drown-proof and get the velcro all the way around your vest," an instructor explained.

Drown proofing allows you to stay above water longer than if you were to tread water, which requires more energy. You take a deep breath, go underwater and float. You come back up for air and go back down.

It's a method Kaitlin Knapp used for two minutes before manually inflating a life jacket. This scenario allows a sailor to survive if their life jacket doesn't automatically inflate, which the Navy says can happen 10% of the time.

Sailors normally wear about 40 pounds of gear while in the water waiting for help. This can be with a basket from a helicopter, harness, or other means.

"God forbid if something were to happen, we want a very high level of training for you to fall to and give you your best chance of survivability," Meyers said.

Many of the sailors who go through this training fly in an MH60 Sierra Seahawk, which is a Navy helicopter. Fox 4 had the opportunity to fly in one, taking a tour of Norfolk and surrounding cities.

Second Class John Antonio, a helicopter mechanic, says there are several missions it can be used for.

"It's directed towards search and rescue," he said.

Sailors on the helicopter can also work with the SEAL time and other unique missions. They're missions both Antonio and Meyers say they're happy to be a part of whether it's fixing helicopters or training those flying in them.

"It's an honor to wear the uniform, serve the country," Meyers said.