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July 5, 2012
LEUT Debra Holland
NAVY'S core values of courage and
teamwork were put into practice when
reserve and permanent health profession-
als came together for survival at sea train-
ing during Exercise Bluestokes.
Back in their civilian roles, the
reserves rely on their training to make the
correct life-saving decisions on behalf of
But what about saving their own lives
should they find themselves as a pas-
senger in a ditched helicopter at sea one
Would they have the ability to safely
exit the aircraft and survive in open waters
or a life raft until rescue?
Navy health personnel are classed as
"frequent over water flyers" due to their
call out on aeromedical evacuations.
That is why the helicopter underwater
escape training (HUET) component of
Bluestokes is a prerequisite for all reserve
medical and nursing officers deployed to
ship based operations.
It aims to build operational readiness
and enables integration with permanent
members in a military working envi-
ronment. As they arrived at the Naval
Aviation Sea Survival Centre (NASSC),
at HMAS Albatross, there was no doubt
this group would be stepping outside their
comfort zone both mentally and physi-
The trainees were strapped into the
Modular Egress Training Simulator,
which replicates various ADF helicopter
seat and exit positions.
Then, under the watchful eye of
instructors and safety divers, they were
put through a series of underwater sce-
narios to replicate some of the stresses
and disorientation that could be encoun-
tered, including 180 degree inversion and
The survival at sea training continued
as the teams worked together to perform
"wet-winching" and life-raft drills, all
aimed at increasing capability and con-
fidence in surviving an actual helicopter
Bluestokes also covered rotary wing
aeromedical evacuation, acute mental
health on operations, advanced life sup-
port, early management of severe trauma
and mandatory annual awareness training.
LEUT Debra Holland
THE afternoon is cold and wet
from the sleeting rain and the
downdraft from the low-hovering
helicopter is making it difficult
to maintain the grip of the para-
guard supporting the critically
It is hard going, but as part of
an aeromedical evacuation team,
your responsibility is to ensure
the safe transport of your patient
to a nearby ship for treatment.
Fortunately, the patient in
this case was an 80kg mannequin
at the HMAS Albatross airfield
during the final day of rotary
wing aeromedical evacuation
However, there was no let up in
the focus and pace of the Exercise
Bluestokes trainees as they care-
fully tended their "patient" and
carried "him" across the muddy
ground to safety.
This was the third year the
consolidated training exercise
for reserve health professionals
was conducted following the suc-
cess of the inaugural Bluestokes
initiative in 2010.
RWAME training is one of the
most sought after components
within Bluestokes and a
prerequisite for deployment to
areas of operation, humanitarian
missions and remote postings.
Under the guidance of
instructors from Health
Operational Conversion Unit,
RAAF Base Amberley and with
the support of 808 and 816SQNs
from Albatross, the trainees
were taught how to apply their
professional skills within the
confines of a Navy airframe.
Subjects covered in the
intensive four-day course
included physiology and the
stresses of flight, in-flight patient
care, aircraft and airfield
safety and also equipment and
skills at sea
DON'T LOOK DOWN: A Bluestokes trainee is winched into a Seahawk during training.
Photo: LSIS Yuri Ramsey
Air rescue and evacuation
HELPING HAND: Trainees simulate carrying a casualty from an MRH-90 during rotary wing medical
evacuation training at HMAS Albatross.
Photo: LSIS Yuri Ramsey
DEEP BREATH: LEUT Natalie Boulton emerges from the Modular Egress
Training System at the HUET pool at HMAS Albatross. Photo: ABIS Hayley Clarke
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