MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- “Ditching, ditching, ditching!” As soon as the Marines heard the booming command they braced for impact and took a final large breath. The crew was seconds away from going underwater and having it rush through the floor, windows, and doors, making every second count as the Marines prepared to escape the mock helicopter crash before being engulfed and lost in darkness.
For the Marines of 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, Marine Air Control Group 28, this became a reality during modular amphibious egress training at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 18.
The modular amphibious egress training, commonly referred to as the helo dunker, is a lifesaving course that provides all service members with the skills and confidence to successfully and safely egress out of a helicopter that is submerged in a body of water.
“This training is designed to save lives,” said Glenn LaMarque, an underwater training instructor. “We do this so that service members may not only know how to react, but also save themselves.”
The training is a requirement for the seven respective Marine expeditionary units. When deployed, MEUs are sea-based units and the dunker provides the safest and most realistic way of simulating an actual incident.
Safety is the paramount concern for the staff and they were on standby throughout the entirety of the exercise, ready to aid a Marine if needed. If a Marine failed to perform the task, the instructors would provide additional aid until successful completion.
“No Marine will leave untrained,” LaMarque said. “We are here to raise the standard in order to keep our Marines alive.”
The ultimate goal of the training is to instill the Marines with confidence to save themselves and raise the standard of Marine Corps training.
“We are doing this training to become more efficient and be able to perform under stress, which is something I feel every Marine needs to be capable of,” said Lance Cpl. Zachary Felts, an assistant LAAD gunner and one of the students in the course. “I am glad this training is available. It helps my fellow Marines and I to be prepared for whatever circumstances may occur.”
“Accidents will happen and it’s your job to be ready when they do,” said LaMarque.