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News | Oct. 26, 2009

JTF-Bravo personnel recovery team learns water survival skills

By TSgt Mike Hammond Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Fourteen members of a joint personnel recovery team here learned potentially life-saving skills during water survival training at the Soto Cano Air Base pool Oct. 22. 

The team, consisting of U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy members assigned to Army Forces here, learned to use their uniform pants as a floatation device, retrieve a weapon submerged 10 feet in water, escape from load-bearing equipment such as a vest, tread water in uniform, and use a travel stroke to swim with equipment like a rucksack and weapon. 

U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Michael Glancey led the training. Sergeant Glancey volunteered to provide training while deployed here based on his qualifications as a certified lifeguard and having served for two years as a water survival and drown-proofing instructor. 

"This training is just one part of a 14-week train-up process for this (personnel recovery) team," Sergeant Glancey said. "Any of these members could be called upon to find a lost or stranded servicemember or civilian out in Honduras or anywhere in Central America. In the process of doing such a mission, they will obviously be crossing land -- but they also might be involved in crossing water like lakes or rivers," the sergeant said. "Any training they do with the Army could involve being exposed to water while in uniform, so the goal is to make them comfortable and confident so they can operate safely." 

The members displayed various levels of skill and comfort in water as the training progressed, but a common theme was determination to complete the training; all 14 members were successfully trained. 

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Newberry said he found the training valuable.
"It's very practical training if you are in a situation that involves water," Airman Newberry said. "I'm flight certified, so if I'm flying over water it's good to know I have tools to survive in the case of a crash or emergency landing. 

"The most valuable part of the training in my opinion was learning to swim with all my equipment," Airman Newberry said. "You never know when you could be in a situation where you have to swim and still hold onto all your equipment, so practicing that was very useful to me." 

Because Joint Task Force-Bravo is U.S. Southern Command's forward arm for disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and personnel recovery operations in Central America, training such as the water survival enhances an inherent capability for the task force. 

"This training gives the Task Force commander the ability to provide Personnel Recovery in a variety of potential environments which will benefit the unit in the event of real-world missions," said U.S. Army 1st Sergeant Jorge Ortiz, first sergeant for Army Forces at Joint Task Force-Bravo.