Story by PO1 David Kolmel on 07/31/2019Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC) Jacksonville (JAX) commenced training with a new, mask-off hypoxia trainer in July that will be used for all Navy and Marine Corps designated aviation personnel flying in multi-place non-ejection aircraft.
Capt. Theron Toole, commanding officer of Navy Medicine Operational Training Center in Pensacola, and Capt. Leslie Kindling, officer in charge of Naval Survival Training Institute in Pensacola, visited ASTC JAX to observe one of the initial training sessions with the newly mission capable Normobaric Hypoxia Trainer (NHT).
"The NHT provides the most realistic hypoxia training for these aircrew members," said Kindling, who has oversight of the Navy's eight ASTCs and reports directly to Toole.
The NHT simulates the reduced oxygen pressure of a depressurized aircraft at altitude, allowing the aircrew to practice their emergency procedures while experiencing the signs and symptoms of hypoxia.
Hypoxia is a lack of sufficient oxygen to tissues in the body to maintain performance function, which can cause light-headedness, dizziness, tingling, euphoria and decreased visual accuracy. Training aircrew to recognize the symptoms helps ensure they can take action before progressing to potentially life-threatening situations while at high altitudes.
"I really felt the effects more this time around, especially feelings of disorientation and difficulty breathing," said Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) 2nd Class John Booker, who was taking the hypoxia training qualification for the third time. Aircrew are required to take a refresher course every four years.
The NHT at ASTC JAX is the first operational trainer in the fleet and has replaced the low-pressure chamber that was decommissioned in February 2017. The Sailors assigned to ASTC Jax have been at the forefront of implementation and operational testing for the new trainer since its inception in summer 2018.
"As a staff, ASTC JAX became 100 percent qualified in only 18 working days, on top of the already established training schedule," said Chief Naval Aircrewman (Avionics) Scott Counselman, ASTC JAX leading chief petty officer. "Nothing has been dropped or moved. We began operational testing late last July, and the ASTC staff has been learning new operating procedures, assisting in writing standard operations and safety procedures, and conducting risk management analysis."
Counselman said once the testing was complete and the procedures validated, the staff qualification process commenced and proceeded at a rapid pace, leading to the introduction of the device to refresher Naval Aviation Survival Training Program classes in July.
With the ASTC JAX NHT now fully functional, ASTC JAX staff will work with staff at the remaining seven ASTCs. ASTCs Norfolk, Virginia; Cherry Point, North Carolina; Whidbey Island, Washington; Miramar, California; Pensacola, Florida; Lemoore, California; and Patuxent River, Maryland are scheduled to become fully operation by summer 2020.
The Naval Survival Training Institute provides safe, effective and relevant aviation survival and human performance training as the execution arm of the Chief of Naval Operations-mandated Naval Aviation Survival Training Program (NASTP), and is a component of the Navy Medicine Operational Training Center (NMOTC) based in Pensacola, Florida. NMOTC provides Operational Medicine and Aviation Survival training.