MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The Marines in the cramped rear compartment of the simulated amphibious assault vehicle braced themselves as the cold water rushed over their bodies. They each gulped one last deep breath as the vehicle submerged completely into the pool, plunging into total darkness.
As they forced themselves to remain calm, the Marines waited for the space to pressurize so they could escape through the top hatch. Groping for the door, they pushed themselves out of the underwater vehicle and emerged into the open air.
The Marines of Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, learned how to successfully escape from a sinking AAV during submerged vehicle egress training at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sept. 22.
The training was to prepare the Marines for their upcoming deployment with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“[The Marines] are reinforcing their skills in case they are in a rapidly sinking or disabled AAV that is to the point where they would have to egress out into the water or transfer into another vehicle so they could get to safety,” said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Wallace, the AAV platoon sergeant with the company.
Before the Marines were submerged, instructors taught them how to properly use the supplemental emergency breathing devices. Then the Marines were slowly introduced to the feeling of being flipped upside-down in the water by buckling themselves into the shallow water egress training chair.
The instructors stressed the importance of remaining calm while in the water.
“What we are doing here is helping out a lot because it gets you more familiar with what is actually happening when a vehicle is sinking,” said Sgt. Keon Ellison, a crew chief with the unit. “It actually gives you more hands-on experience.”
The main purpose of an AAV is to transport Marines or supplies from a ship to shore. Echo Company is prepared to spend a large portion of their upcoming deployment conducting AAV operations, said Ellison.
“I feel a lot more prepared because now I know the fundamentals and what exactly is going on instead of just imagining what would happen,” said Ellison.
This training is required for all Marines deploying with a MEU to boost their confidence in the equipment and in themselves.