NORFOLK, VA – U.S. Navy Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen (SWCC) from Special Boat Team (SBT) 20 tested their stamina and water proficiency after the one-week Parachute Egress (Para-Egress) course at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek Feb 5.
“The evolution we did today is the water competency evaluation; it’s a compilation of everything we’ve taught the students throughout the week,” said Senior Chief Special Warfare Boat Operator Jeff Smith, Para-Egress course instructor for SBT-20. “It’s designed to be challenging, to test guys in the worst possible controlled environment that we can replicate, testing their physical and mental aptitude to be able to handle themselves in any situation that they may find themselves in.”
The beginning of the course consists of a one-mile open ocean swim along with a basic physical assessment. This is done to ensure the students are physically ready before putting them in any kind of dangerous scenario.
“We give these guys real-world survival skills including disentanglement procedures in parachutes, and buddy towing with full gear on,” said Smith. “We push them to their limits, both their physical and mental ability to help them deal with challenges that occur during a water drop and how to successfully get out of those situations without anxiety or panic.”
Next, they perform single disentanglement exercises. They test out two to three times, swimming below a single parachute and feeling their way out from underneath using a seam as a guide. They repeat the exercise blindfolded, simulating coming up under a parachute at night. The next day the course gets harder, simulating falling into one parachute with another falling over them. They have to remove the chute below them, unhitch their gear and find their way out.
Chief Special Warfare Boat Operator Benjamin Spoon, Para-Egress safety instructor at SBT-20, has seen firsthand situations where this type of training is essential.
“The worst case scenario is being entangled in two parachutes under water while trying to remove your parachute harness. Our challenge as instructors is to teach these guys to remain calm in these situations,” said Spoon.
Part of the water proficiency test is the buddy tow, where they have to overcome the mental challenge of exhaustion along with keeping their buddy alive.
“The goal is to have these students learn the technique for real world scenarios. The buddy tow simulates finding another operator in the water and towing him to safety while keeping his head above the waterline,” said Spoon.
When they leave this course, these SWCC will ultimately go to Maritime Craft Aerial Delivery System (MCADS) training. The system deploys an 11-meter Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RIB) rigged with four large parachutes from the back of a C-130 or C-17 at approximately 3,500-feet, with the SWCC parachuting immediately afterwards. The MCADS capability enables Naval Special Warfare SWCCs to rapidly deploy anywhere in the world in a maritime environment.