USS MESA VERDE — All 25 Marines and Sailors who went through the Marine Corps first and most realistic helicopter crash simulation in the Gulf of Aden passed through the training exercise with flying colors, a Marine spokesman announced Monday.
"The best training a Marine can receive is when it's as real as possible," said Capt. John Avery, a spokesman with Headquarters Marine Corps.
Amid major budget cuts that have cut into training funds, the Marine Corps took an innovative approach to the problem of keeping Marines safe in the air and sea by replacing its helicopter crash trainers — which feature chopped-in-half helicopters that flip over and dunk Marines into a pool — with real CH-53E helicopters taking off from the USS Mesa Verde that later crash into the waters off the coast of Yemen.
Avery revealed more details of the exercise in a press briefing on Wednesday. After taking off from the amphibious warship, the helicopter pilots acting as chief instructors for the exercise screamed "Ditching, ditching, ditching!" for their Marine cargo before proceeding to nose-dive directly into the water.
Once the helicopter hit the water and turned over, the Marines donned safety gear, punched out the helicopter windows, and made it out of the aircraft safely. Some sustained minor injuries which were treated onboard the ship.
"A lot of Marines come in here and they just hate this training," said Lt. Col. Pete Ghouta, chief instructor for the Hyper-Realistic Modular Amphibious Egress Trainer (HRMAET), who also survived pilot training on the V-22 Osprey. "Once the training is over, they really get a sense of accomplishment. Like they just cheated death and lived to tell the tale."
The Commandant of the Marine Corps is expected to announce that all Marines deployed aboard ship will be required to be involved in at least one helicopter crash in the ocean.
At press time, Marines at Camp Lejeune were posting angry Facebook messages denigrating the training of Marines in Hawaii, who are lucky enough to get to crash into warm water.