Under the parachute
By Airman 1st Class Sean Campbell, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 08, 2016
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists are the Air Force's subject matter experts in emergency parachute training, instructing around 2500 aircrew a year.
Fairchild is home to Initial Emergency Parachute Training. The parachuting program's goal is to train all aircrew members, who could potentially have to bail out of their aircraft, on how to survive a parachute ride so they can be rescued by recovery personnel.
"We have to expect a student who comes in here to not know a lot about their canopy. Then we have to ensure they understand how to hit the ground and how to steer while in the air," said Senior Airmen Joseph Halloran, 22nd Training SERE specialist. "At the end of the training, they might not know how to do everything perfectly, but they will know what to do in a situation where they have to bail from an aircraft."
The training starts in a classroom where SERE specialists go over how parachutes function, how to inspect equipment, how to put a parachute on, how to do corrective function procedures and other important hands-on information.
"The first block of training is the instructional piece leading into the laboratory," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Thompson, 22nd TRS parachuting flight chief. "The second block of training is where students will see the corrective function procedures and witness someone hanging from a harness."
After the classroom portion, students go into the labs where they get additional hands-on experience with the harnesses. Students sit in the harness and learn the differences in procedure for when one is above 14,000 feet and when one is below 14,000 feet.
"I'm going to arm my oxygen, I'm going to exit the plane, go into the modified body position and wait until I feel the opening shock," Thompson said. "Once I feel the opening shock, I'm now underneath the parachute. It's either a good parachute or a bad parachute. Now I pin my chin against my chest and begin practicing bicycle kicks to clear out line twists. If there is a line over my canopy how do I fix it? These are the different situations students will practice quite a few times while sitting in the harness."
The last step of the training is where students learn how to fall. They are instructed on proper falling procedures, which includes keeping the feet and knees together and making five points of contact when hitting the ground. They progress from jumping on flat ground, to a two-foot platform, four-foot platform and then end on a lateral drift apparatus that allows for movement while practicing landing. After the students practice landing, they learn how to use a personnel lowering device.
"The PLD is used if someone gets stuck in a tree while parachuting," Thompson said. "Students are shown how to hook up and go through the risers to their repelling device and how to lower themselves down from a tree."
The program has changed so aircrew who go through the program now learn with the types of parachutes that they will be using at their respective bases.
After the emergency parachute training, students then go back to their assigned bases and complete a follow-up reoccurrence training where they complete their qualifications.
"The SERE specialists here are the Air Force's subject matter experts in emergency parachute training," Thompson said. "They are out there giving aircrew members their first look at emergency parachuting, which will follow them the rest of their careers. That's why we do what we do. We jump because we are providing the Air Force with that skill set and making it so the pilots and crewmembers have the skills to survive if they ever find themselves in that situation."