JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —
Imagine having a second to make a life or death decision.
For that reason, the 12th Operations Support Squadron’s Aircrew Flight Equipment and Survival Course impacts aviation safety throughout the Air Force.
With approximately 1,200 students certified or recertified every year, the program teaches pilots how to properly egress from T-1A, T-6A and T-38C aircraft.
“I like to think that I enhance the survival skills of all the people that fly,” said Reynaldo Gutierrez, 12th OSS lead course instructor. “The main goal for them is to survive, to come back to fly and fight another day; to come back to their missions and families.”
The class teaches aircrew flight equipment, ejection seat operation, emergency parachute deployment and ground survival.
“It is important because if you encounter yourself in the situation where you have to bail out of the aircraft in a split second time you don’t want to be in a situation where you made it out of the aircraft, you possibly could have lived but then you end up putting yourself into more harm by not having the proper training or knowing what is available to you,” said 1st Lt. Austin Anderson, 14th Student Squadron, Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.
While egressing is a rare occurrence, Lt. Col. Spencer Godwin, 435th Fighter Training Squadron, recalled a debriefing after a squadron mate successfully egressed.
“It’s a significant emotional event when that happens,” he said. “Whether you have time to prep or it just happens instantaneously, you want your training to kick in versus having to think about it. "That’s the reason for egress training once a year.”
For pilots and instructors it’s crucial, stated Gutierrez.
“Some of these students are going to become instructors,” he said. “You have to show them how to do it correctly because they are role models.”
When he hears that an Air Force pilot needed to egress, Gutierrez doesn’t want to wonder “how did I teach them?”
"Before they go out the jet they need to put on their gear and they need to test it,” he said. “Then I teach them egress, how to strap into the ejection seat how to do the preflight of the ejection seat, I teach air and ground egress.”
Next he teaches how to fly the parachute ... how to go through trees or power lines ... how to land.
“Once they land I teach them local area survival, survival techniques and tactics like to drink the water, turn off the beacon, get on the radio, treat for shock, avoid snakes,” Gutierrez said.
There is a diverse audience for egress training: novice and seasoned pilot instructors, distinguished visitors, introduction fighter fundamentals pilots, Air Force academy cadets and combat camera photographers.
“If you don’t have the training and you don’t have the skills no amount of luck is going to be able to save you,” Gutierrez said. “That’s what we are doing here, we are building survival skills, luck is good but I wouldn’t count on it. Be skilled, know your systems, know how to use your systems, and be competent.”