Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point -- Marines with Marine Transport Squadron 1 took to the air and sea with their HH-46E Sea Knight helicopter to practice search and rescue swimming techniques off the coast of North Carolina Jan 9.
The Marines rehearse potential missions every day at the squadron to prepare for possible scenarios, said Cpl. Anthony DiCola, a search and rescue crew chief instructor with VMR-1.
“We try to practice having the swimmers in the water at least once a week to keep them, the pilots and I prepared for anything,” said DiCola. “Practicing over the water makes it more difficult for the pilots because all they have to rely on for adjustments are my calls.”
When flying over the land, pilots use objects on the ground to adjust and keep steady. However, over the water, VMR-1 pilots fly blind, unable to see the swimmers in the water, and relying on directions from their crew chief, said DiCola.
“As a crew chief, it’s important to always keep your situational awareness,” said DiCola. “You have to be very assertive and confident in the calls you make, and verify everything to keep everyone on the same page and running smoothly.”
During training, VMR-1 Marines practice a variety of situations the crew may face. Maneuvering over land and sea, the VMR-1 crews work together to practice aerial insertion of rescue swimmers from varying heights while static and in motion.
“The 10 and 10’s are fun,” said Cpl. Kyle Alessandro, a SAR swimmer instructor for VMR-1, referring to an aerial insertion technique used by rescue swimmers. “They are supposed to be used for a situation where you need to get a group of swimmers out quickly in an area close to each other.”
The 15-and-0 is a technique that places a swimmer from a static aircraft into water from a height of approximately 15 feet to a point near an objective, like a person or equipment, that needs retrieval.
Rescue swimmer instructors keep watch over rescue swimmers during training, according to Alessandro.
“We practice these types of missions to become more proficient at the job,” said Alessandro. “Many of these missions are very physically demanding, and it takes training to keep us as qualified as possible.”