BELTON — The last time Maj. Mary Miller participated in water rescue training, she jumped out of a helicopter in the Gulf of Mexico with a parachute strapped to her back.
Nearly 10 years later, Miller jumped out of a boat into Belton Lake on Wednesday. With rotor wash beating her down, Miller, a pilot with the 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, waited for a device to hoist her to safety.
“With the (Black Hawk) helicopter beating you down, you can’t really see,” Miller said. “Once you’ve done it, the next time you have to do it, if it’s for real, it’ll be a lot easier than having to do it for the first time and you freak out because you just crashed your helicopter.”
Miller was among more than 100 soldiers in the battalion who participated in the three-day “Operation Gun Rescue” training, which started Monday.
Soldiers previously learned how to escape an aircraft after it crashes during training at Fort Rucker, Ala.
Wednesday’s training focused on how to be rescued once they’re out.
Lt. Col. Hank Perry, battalion commander, said the training in a controlled environment gives soldiers invaluable experience and builds their confidence in using the equipment.
“(The training) takes some of the unknown out of it,” Perry said. “Once you’ve done it once or twice, your ability to get it done quicker and to get it done safer is exponentially greater.”
Maj. Brian Hummel, operations officer for the battalion, said the main purpose of the exercise is to build training capacity.
Hummel said the unit will have a unique mission — water security — when it deploys to Kuwait later this year.
To prepare for their deployment, soldiers will spend the next few weeks training extensively and flying over water day and night.
“We’ve never really flown over water before,” he said.
For more on the battalion’s “Operation Gun Rescue” training, read Wednesday’s Fort Hood Herald.