NEWS | March 12, 2021

ROTC cadets learn water survival techniques

By Cadet Danielle Sturgill, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Kentucky Army National Guard Cadets within the University of Kentucky’s ROTC program received survival training at Fort Campbell March 12 under the direction of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment’s Dunker Training instructors.

The 160th SOAR cadre consists of retired special operations forces and military dive instructors. They taught the cadets essential skills for aviation water crash survival situations. 

“I think Dunker is a valuable skill because you don't get to choose where you crash in a situation like that. It's possible you can land in either a pond, a creek, stream, or swimming pool inadvertently and the skills that we teach here will help save your life,” said Chris Smith, facilities manager at the Allison Aquatics Training Facility. 

The AATF uses advanced underwater egress training equipment, including a hybrid body of an MH-47G Chinook and MH-60 Blackhawk replica, lifeboat and floatation devices, and a hydraulic lift. The pool itself has a wave simulator, two industrial-size fans, and a combination of light and sound systems to recreate extreme weather conditions.

“You don't have to be super strong in the water to do what we teach here. You've just got to be able to follow instructions. If you do what we asked you to do, you'll easily find your way out of the simulator,” said Smith.

The instructors first teach the course in a classroom environment, introducing the cadets to correct and incorrect techniques for taking the safest and most efficient route out of the egress body. Once transitioning into the pool, the cadets are tested on their knowledge via smaller-scale training devices before entering the helo replica. 

“I think it's a valuable skillset; whether you get the training before flight school or after flight school is really insignificant. It may make a difference for some of those folks that are thinking about going flight if they don't enjoy the training because they're going to have to do it. It might be a determining factor for them,” Smith said.

“I always wanted to be in the military but I also wanted to get my degree. UK has fulfilled my dream of being able to be in the biomedical engineering program and be in the military,” Cadet Zach Gillum of the 2-147th said. “If it wasn’t for the National Guard’s Minuteman Scholarship, I would’ve definitely had to take student loans.” 

Less than 5% of University of Kentucky cadets that commission as second lieutenants choose to branch Aviation, so Dunker training is not exclusive only to future aviators. 

The UK ROTC cadets are participating in the Simultaneous Membership Program, which allows National Guard cadets to participate in full-time school and ROTC while also taking an active role in their own units. This participation offers cadets the opportunity to shadow other officers, integrate with their unit’s members, and gain experiences that will enable them meet their career goals.

“UK has always been a Guard-friendly ROTC program,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jennifer Maggard, the Assistant Professor of Military Science and National Guard Liaison at the University of Kentucky. “For the past four years, the UK ROTC Program has been the number one recipient for the Minuteman Scholarship Award out of the 7th Brigade within Cadet Command. With an average of 14 Minuteman Scholarships granted to students each year, it’s been proven that number matters.”