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Taking the navy plunge.

For or 100 year, naval aviators have taken flight, combining efforts with other elements of the U.S. Armed Forces and allied services in an ever-advancing arena that has proven instrumental in conflict and peacetime. The very nature of what these service men and women do, however, requires meticulous planning, a philosophy designed to ensure the best while preparing for the worst.

The 21 active-duty Sailors and officers - along with three civilian employees - assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC) serve the sole purpose of ensuring aviators from U.S. and allied installations around the world are prepared for what could happen while in flight, according to Lt. Cmdr. Leslie Kindling, ASTC Jacksonville Director and Aerospace/Operational Physiologist.

"As part of the Naval Aviation Survival Training Program (NASTP), ASTC Jacksonville is a force-enabler," said Kindling. "Our mission is to assist the warfighter in winning the fight, to prevent losses due to mishaps and hostilities and to ensure survival in the event of a mishap or hostility."

As one of eight such facilities in the U.S. operating under the Naval Survival Training Institute (NSTI) - a subsidiary of the Naval Operational Medicine Institute (NOMI) - ASTC Jacksonville facilitates aviation survival training as a subject matter expert on all military operational medicine, providing aviation survival and safety training for Navy and Marine Corps aviation personnel and supporting all DoD activities.

More than 1,200 students train annually attending classroom lectures, using simulator devices and experience a curriculum that emphasizes hands-on exposure to survival skills.

"Our primary purpose is to maintain fleet readiness and enhance aircrew survivability through aviation survival training to fleet aviation, ground forces and joint service aircrew," Kindling said. "We advance naval aviation survival through education and training."

Kindling added that courses offered through ASTC Jacksonville include Initial Aircrew Training (primarily provided at ASTC Pensacola), Refresher Aircrew Training, Non-Aircrew Training and non-aircraft-specific training, all requirements for personnel whose duties involve frequent flights aboard Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.

"Aircrew must complete the training every four years to maintain their flight status - this is the operational readiness part of what we do," she said. "Force preservation is supported first by our training aircrew to respond to physiological threats which, if left untreated, could result in mishaps. Force preservation is again addressed by training aircrew on post-mishap procedures which improve their survivability."

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Classroom lectures center around physiology and aeromedical issues, necessitating the presence of the three Medical Service Corps aviation physiologists and eight hospital corpsmen (HM) with the Navy enlisted classification code of 8409 (aerospace physiology technician). Classes in altitude physiology, sensory physiology and situational awareness, acceleration physiology and other flight-and medical-related issues are generally precursors to the hands-on practicum.

Kindling said the practical application of some of the devices ASTC Jacksonville personnel use during training - including the low pressure chamber and the reduced oxygen breathing device - can provide a realistic overview to situations naval aviators might face.

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"With these we can allow the student to feel the effects of hypoxia - one of the most common hazards in the tactical air operations community right now," she said. "This training allows crews to experience the signs of hypoxia so it will be easier for them to recognize the same sign in the aircraft. Easier recognition leads to quicker response and better survivability."

Kindling also said the center's ejection seat trainer and virtual reality parachute descent trainer also provide lifelike experiences for aircrew members. She added that ASTC Jacksonville's $1 million, two-year-old modular egress trainer, a device designed to simulate an aircraft involved in a water mishap from which aviators must evacuate, is also of critical import, citing the knowledge and professionalism of the active-duty Sailors, civil service employees and support staff attached to the center as instrumental to the overall success of the practical training evolutions as well as the classroom-based settings.

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"Without a doubt, the credit for our success goes to the motivated, knowledgeable and professional Sailors and civilian instructors we have on staff."

Along with Navy divers and medical presence at the training center, other aviation rates, including aviation warfare systems operator (aircrew), aviation structural mechanic - safety equipment and aircrew survival equipment are also involved in the day-to-day operations of ASTC Jacksonville, something the training center's senior enlisted advisor (SEA) attributed to the teamwork, professionalism and knowledge of the Sailors serving as instructors, equipment maintenance personnel and safety observers.

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"These Sailors are tasked with one of the most difficult jobs - preparing for something we all hope never happens," said Senior Chief Naval Air Crewman (SW/AW/NAC) Brantley Lowe, ASTC Jacksonville SEA. "They keep the students trained and ready, and they do their job well. Without their expertise and practical knowledge, people could get hurt or even die."

Cummins is assigned to Naval Operational Medicine Institute (NOMI), NAS Jacksonville, Fla.

Story by MC1 Bruce Cummins | photos by MC2(EXW) Todd Frantom
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Title Annotation:Naval Air Station Jacksonville Aviation Survival Training Center's instructors
Author:Cummins, Bruce
Publication:All Hands
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2011
Words:836
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