My Last 24 Hours!
Yesterday, Friday, I graduated from S-V-90, water survival school in a training center in Washington. After two days and looking around the room at the thirty or so other students in my class, I was a “senior citizen.” I was also the senior-ranking and in this culture, that makes you the accountable partner for everyone! So, soon after arrival at the training complex, on went the flight suit, the booties, and off came the jewelry and watches. Also, off went the lights and on came the fog machines.
Ten of us were directed inside of a modified airplane simulator and instructed to take our seats. We had practiced our drills the day before… when the plane crashes into the water and our feet start to get wet, grab the emergency equipment leaving none behind, throw out the inflatable raft, inflate our life vests, jump in, swim to the raft, climb aboard and start to survive and signal for help. This day, we were told, would be about the same! Yeah, right!
In the darkness, the only light inside of the airplane was the glow stick tied to the helmet of the only guy in the class that couldn’t swim. Six bells sounded meaning, “crash landing imminent,” followed by the flail of ten people desperately searching for dry suits and putting them on over your clothes, donning the life vests, and then sitting back down and waiting with seatbelts fastened.
The next few minutes seemed like forever as we waited for the long bell meaning, “brace for impact.” The simulator, only suspended about five feet above the pool was dropped on the safety cable and suddenly, my feet were wet, then my waist, then I could feel the cold water surge up past my head until we were totally under water. OK, it sounds a bit dramatic, but it was a surprise and it did pop back up so that there was about a foot of breathing room near the top but began to sink again rather quickly.
It was so nice of the instructors to offer me, the senior ranking officer, the favored seat at the front of the simulator which was the farthest point from the escape door! Little did they know, that I had been previously trained about twenty years ago and remembered much of the drill…..keep a handhold, don’t lose orientation, watch our for kicking feet, find the door, and then follow your bubbles!
All out and accounted for, we formed a chain and with lots of screaming over the sound of the thunder, waves, and wind, we found our life raft and started to climb aboard. Did I forget to mention the holes in the dry suit that caused them to fill with water and the fire hoses that continuously blasted 45 degree water on everything? Sorry. There were lots of other things to accomplish, like finding the survival kit, signalling for help, caring for our raft, etc, but at the end of our scenario, which lasted about 45 minutes, we were out of the pool and hanging up the dry suits, tired and pretty cold.
Our instructors, who really loved us, gave us a five-minute break and then herded us to another pool location for another scenario. This time, no dry suits, big waves, colder water, injured victims in the water, and a hoist in a rescue basket through the coldest water spray that you could imagine! Believe me, this was a very long ninety minutes! There was the written test, in which this author scored very well. I am a believer that you better know your survival stuff to save your own life and that of others (kind of like knowing your Bible). Still, our instructors really loved us because they offered us burgers, Cokes, and chips for lunch at the unbelievable price of $10 per person!
The afternoon brought more fun… live helicopter hoists. Eastern Washington has not yet found Spring and the out-of-doors is still pretty chilly. As we all stood in line for the hoist into the hovering helicopter, there were lots of anxious eyes behind the protective goggles and the bone-chilling cold of the pool was desperate to hang onto my bones under the wash of the rotor blades of the Huey. OK, senior ranking goes last and anytime I can be around a helicopter, I am happy to make it last, even in the cold.
The evening brought a meal with some of my classmates….hot turkey, salad, gravy, and ice cream! I had the chance to share a bit and answer lots of questions about my life, service to God, etc. Totally worth the day of relative discomfort sometimes opens doors for sharing, once you all have something in common. Falling into bed at 8:30 pm was easy!
As I write, I just finished a conference call with Virginia and Siegen, Germany, as we plan for missions work to Mustang. It is not yet 6:30AM here and it is my day off. Not really, since I have to do laundry, homework, and prepare for the next three weeks of survival training. Living off the land, hiding, staying warm, and getting rescued are the order of the day starting on Monday. No doubt, there will be other opportunities to share about the things that “make me tick.” I know that if I can “shine” in the eyes of my peers, they’ll give me the chance to show them why God is awesome.
~Carl for Arise Medical Missions (US)