Sergeant 1st Class George Simms (left) and Staff Sgt. Eric Harder (right), Airborne Target Surveillance supervisors, use a poncho raft to move through the pool at the base fitness center on March 14. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)
3/28/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Twenty members of the Army's 138th Military Intelligence Company here recently spent time training their ability to maneuver in water conditions at the base fitness center.
Soldiers spent the morning of March 14 constructing poncho rafts outdoors, then taking them to the pool inside to test their ability to float.
The rafts included two 30-plus pound rucksacks, packed with uniforms, boots, sleeping bags, wet weather gear and other items.
The more tightly and smoothly those items were packed in the ponchos, the better the rafts floated.
That allowed two-man teams, and sometimes a single member, to swim either beside or on top of the rafts.
Some techniques seemed to work better than others, with a person floating on top of the raft, or two swimming alongside one with one person in front and the other in back.
"The whole point of training like this is confidence building, and communicating with the person you may be swimming with. It's also about the fact you can trust your gear - that it will keep you afloat," said Staff Sgt. Scott Sanger, who has taught a class on the training event.
Water survival is one type of training the Army conducts as part of its quarterly training. Should members need to cross a body of water downrange, this would be one way to use equipment they already have on hand.
Along with constructing poncho rafts, Soldiers also used rucksacks and rubber replicas with the same makeup as the M-4 rifle to test their ability to float.
"The majority of the time if we have to do this in a combat situation, we're talking at least another 60 pounds of ammunition," said Maj. Bryan Green, 138th Military Intelligence Company executive officer. "They're actually going to weigh a lot more than the 60 or so pounds that are floating during this training. Again, this is helping them have the confidence these rafts will in fact float."
The 138th MI is a detachment of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.