Airmen of the 446th Airlift Wing teamed up with a local police dive team to conduct familiarization training on the C-17 Globemaster here Jan. 10.
Nate Condreay, Pierce County Metro deputy sheriff and rescue diver, reached out to the 446th AW for Air Force aircraft specialists to train the police dive team in the intricacies of the C-17. Lt. Col. David Jeske, chief of 446th AW Combat Readiness, answered the call.
"Given the hazards associated with being in a water environment, then having the added pressure of responding to an incident where lives are on the line, isn't the time to try to figure out how things work," Condreay said, who in his spare time works as an air transportation specialist with the 36th Aerial Port Squadron here. "This training gives our team the ability to put a plan into effect, so we can safely rescue the crew, passengers, and any special cargo."
In the event a C-17 were to crash, or be forced to land in a body of water, the dive team would take the call for the rescue effort. Jeske, along with Maj. Gene Ballou, 446th AW chief of safety, Maj. Josh Pieper, from the 62nd Airlift Wing, and Chief Master Sgt. Jim Masura, from the 446th Operations Group, facilitated the C-17 rescue and recovery training.
"Because of my past assignments in rescue units, I try to bridge the gap and facilitate between local rescue and recovery organizations, and experts in the C-17 like our aircrews here in the 446th AW," Jeske said.
Along with familiarizing the dive team with potential dangers that can occur during rescue efforts, the training included a classroom briefing, a walkthrough of a C-17 and familiarization with entry points into the aircraft.
"We prepared the training from an Air Force perspective, so we could answer questions that local rescue organizations would have," said Jeske, a 22-year Air Force and Navy veteran. "We put ourselves in their shoes in order to provide them with answers before they even had to ask."
"Every time a member of our team asked a question, (the aircrew's) briefing seemed to have the answer within the turn of the page," Condreay said. "They came well prepared for a safe and successful rescue if one were to arise."
Jeske said their training priority was to help the local police divers become familiar with the capabilities of the C-17.
"First and foremost, we wanted them to be familiar with the awesome capabilities of this aircraft, particularly the life-saving capabilities and the nature and location of hazards," Jeske said. "We talked about the potential incident locations of the aircraft, its specifics, what they could expect at the scene of an event, what could be onboard an aircraft and how it can be secured, ways to access the aircraft, lifesaving equipment carried onboard, and the potential hazards."
As important as the classroom training was, Jeske said it pales in comparison to actually going out and encountering McChord Field's airlift assets.
"Nothing beats seeing and touching all of these items on an actual aircraft," he said. "The hands-on familiarization was the key to the day's events. It dramatically increases the ability and capability of these local rescue organizations."
As an air transportation specialist, Condreay is around C-17 aircraft more than an average Airman, however he said he still learned a lot about the C-17.
"I was extremely impressed with (the aircrew's) knowledge of the aircraft, emergency procedures, and the particular hazards we could face," Condreay said.
The orientation and familiarization today was tremendous, better than anticipated, Jeske said.
"In addition to the nuts and bolts familiarization with the C-17, it helped to build a bond between Airmen flying our jets and rescue personnel who work hard to ensure their safety; although we hope we never need them. We recognize the C-17 is the safest jet in the air, but it's good to know that in a crisis we can focus on what can do to save lives."