By Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (AW) Marygrace Kelsey
It’s a cold dark night over the Pacific. One minute, you’re enjoying a brilliant blanket of stars overhead. They look so close, you’re tempted to try to reach and touch them.
Suddenly, alarms sounds and a panel of warning lights illuminate the cockpit of your FA-18E Super Hornet. You begin to feel short of breath, your vision tunnels and you struggle to remember your emergency procedures. Somehow, you recall the training you received at the Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC) and you activate your emergency oxygen, knowing that hypoxia has set in.
Your vision and thoughts clear, but now it seems your jet has quit on you. You swear the only things working are your failure warning systems. You know that the only thing left to do is to prepare for ejection and that you have to get out of this thing before it kills you. Again, the training you received at the ASTC kicks in and from the moment you explode out of the cockpit, to the time you hit the cold water below, you hear the voice of that Naval Aerospace Physiology Technician (HM 8409) guide you through the proper procedures needed to live through this crisis.
The water is cold and dark, but now a new HM 8409’s voice is in your head, relieving you of doubt and giving you step by step directions that allows you to survive the forbidding ocean, to call for help and get home safely.
After a few days of liberty, you make the rounds of the base to thank the people who had a hand in saving your life. You spend extra time at the ASTC, personally expressing your gratitude to the HM 8409’s for their role in giving you the knowledge and tools needed to save your life.
When an emergency happens at 35,000 feet, it’s crucial that the aircrew is familiar with the emergency procedures and equipment to ensure safety and survival. HM 8409’s train in the basic knowledge and skills as a technical assistant to the Naval Aerospace Physiologist and Aeromedical Safety Officer. They provide Aviators, Aircrews, perspective flight personnel, as well as joint service personnel the skills needed to handle in-flight emergencies, ground and water survival.
HM 8409 training starts with Naval Survival Training Institute (NSTI) onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida. Students are trained to be Aerospace Physiology and Water Survival Instructors and safety observers. Instruction includes aeromedical aspects of flight, in-flight visual problems, spatial disorientation, low pressure chamber systems and operations, emergency egress systems, personal and flight/survival equipment, laser safety, night vision devices, medical intelligence and water survival techniques.
In addition, they serve as operators and maintainers for numerous survival training simulation devices, which includes the Reduced Oxygen Breathing Device (ROBD), anti-G suits, ejection seats, night vision goggles and parachutes. Aerospace Physiology Technicians also perform administrative duties required at Aviation Survival Training Centers. In the case of injuries and illnesses that occur during flight or training, an Aerospace Physiology Technician can provide care until relieved by a Flight Surgeon. Aerospace Physiology Technicians are equipped to manage physiological incidents such as decompression sickness, ear blockage or other gas expansion issues.
Attention corpsmen: Play a direct, positive role in this scenario. Become an HM 8409 to train fleet personnel to recognize and overcome adversity to live to fight another day. Participate in exciting ship/open water exercises as well as survival exercises in the field.
Some qualifications merit incentive pay. Earn an NEC 9502 (Basic Instructor), obtain your Master Training Specialist qualification and save lives! Check out the following videos to see what it is all about:
NSTI website video: http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmotc/nsti/Pages/default.aspx
Navy Medicine Scrubbing In videos: Navy Medicine Aviation Survival Training Center in Patuxent River, Maryland:
(Episode 1) https://youtu.be/lQdrykfZRMs
(Episode 2) https://youtu.be/PuD4BF_AEU0
For more information, contact the HM-8409 Enlisted Technical Leader, HMC(FMF/AW/NAC) Jack Blaine at (850)452-2718 or Jack.Blaine@med.navy.mil.