Castaway 22-2: Dover AFB leads total force interagency survival training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. J.D. Strong II
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) flight partnered with the 3rd Airlift Squadron, Coast Guard Station Indian River Inlet, Delaware, and Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey, to participate in Castaway 22-2, August 30, 2022.

Castaway is a total force interagency exercise that tests Dover’s capabilities, use of tactics, techniques, and procedures to see if redefinition is needed for its standard operating procedures of search and rescue.

“Castaway 22-2 was a continuation of an idea I had about challenging the Wing’s capabilities. This was all brought up from an idea of what does this look like, real world if an aircraft were to go down in the local area?” said Tech. Sgt. Derreck Day, 436th OSS SERE specialist. “The DOD is very good at understanding processes through lessons learned. What I wanted to do is challenge the procedures set in place, build those lessons learned, so when it comes time for a real-world event to happen that we're not starting from scratch, we actually know and understand what we've done in the past that we can utilize.”

During Castaway, Day and six Airmen from the 436th OSS and one from 512th OSS were escorted five miles out into the Atlantic Ocean by Coast Guardsmen from Indian River Inlet where they simulated being survivors of an aircraft incident.

Once positioned, the crew deployed a life raft and prepared their signaling equipment, including sea dye, a flare and a combat survivor evader locator radio. The crew’s objective was to use the issued survival equipment and test the device tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as transmit information to assist aircrew in spotting them.

As the raft floated along the Atlantic Coast in need of rescue, a C-17 Globemaster III from the 3rd AS flew above and served as the on-scene commander.

Three pilots and three loadmasters took flight to search for the stranded crew. While harnessed to the C-17, the loadmasters searched from out of the rear aircraft door, while communicating with the pilots on their findings. As one pilot flew, another primarily radioed with the different agencies and downed crew while following the on-scene checklist, and the final pilot was strictly dedicated to searching and keeping the downed aircrew in sight.

“It was great to work with SERE in a capacity other than just mandatory courses that we need for currency. This was a really cool opportunity, to fly with them and go look for a life raft out in the water to exercise our equipment onboard the aircraft,” said Capt. August Hein, 436th OSS wing tactician. “This is the first time I've done any kind of search and rescue exercise. It's rare for the C-17 to be involved in a search and rescue exercise. It's not a primary role for us, but it's something we have the ability to do.”

According to Hein, despite the challenge of conducting search and rescue from a C-17, they were able to successfully locate the life raft, and radio to the Atlantic City Coast Guard station for assistance. Upon receiving the call, the Coast Guard dispatched a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter containing two pilots, a flight engineer and rescue swimmer to assist with saving the downed crew from the ocean.

Due to the success of Castaway, SERE hopes to continue the exercise semi-annually and conduct different exercise scenarios not only at sea, but on land as well.