Skip to main content

Military Health System

The Need for Speed Requires Intense Training

Image of  Military personnel conducts routine ops in US 3rd Fleet. Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Kayla Pettit, from Charlotte, N.C., signals an F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Vigilantes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151, as it launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) June 21, 2022. Abraham Lincoln Strike Group is conducting routine operations in the U.S. 3rd Fleet in the Pacific Ocean.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Education & Training | Physical Fitness

This summer's blockbuster movie showcases some amazing feats by military aviators, pushing the envelope beyond 10 Gs and incredible combat maneuvers.

But, initial military aviation training focuses not just on the Gs, but learning to control an aircraft, while also understanding the physiology of acceleration forces on the body.

Being able to maneuver an aircraft while withstanding high levels of gravitational forces, or G-forces, is a key component to training for combat aviation. But mishap prevention and survival, and enhancing and sustaining performance all play a role.

If you've ever been on a rollercoaster, you've felt a minimal amount of the G-forces and the effects the acceleration that aviators experience.

For military aviators, their training requires that they learn how to deal with sometimes severe G-forces and negative G-forces that change rapidly, especially in combat operations. Those G-forces affect all aviators to some degree, whether they fly fixed wings, jets, turboprop aircraft or helicopters.

G-Forces

Military aviators first learn the basics of the flight physiology and its impact on the human cardiovascular system during the lecture portion of their training with aerospace physiology personnel.

Next, these aviators learn how to avoid or overcome what is called G-induced loss of consciousness, also known as GLOC.

"That's when the blood leaves your brain. After about five seconds, you're lights out," said Navy Cmdr. Timothy Welsh, who is the director of the Aviation Survival Training Center, Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, part of the Naval Survival Training InstituteNaval Survival Training Institute.

To combat GLOC, military aviators learn the anti-G straining maneuver, which is a series of isometric abdominal and leg muscle contractions that help to keep blood flowing up toward the heart and brain and not downward.

Aviators are also taught breathing techniques that are a primary method of resisting GLOC.

In the Navy, aviators are taught the Hick maneuver. The term alludes to the sounds the pilot makes while saying the word Hick as they breathe in and out.

The Air Force also teaches a respiratory component, which means "every three seconds, we're going to do a rapid half-second exchange of air where we want to move the equal amount of air out and right back in," explained Air Force Maj. Stuart Sauls, who is the acceleration training branch chief in the Air Force Research LaboratoryAir Force Research Laboratory 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force BaseWright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.

"We want pilots to do a very calm breath hold because that allows them to control their air and their chest pressure much better," said Sauls.

In the respiratory component, "air exchanges briefly drop pressure around the heart to allow for that blood flow to continue properly, he said. "Then pilots have to get that air right back in and block it back off in the lungs so that we can get pressure back because, if they don't, they can lose consciousness."

Pressure suits are another way for aviators to reduce the amount of blood going into their extremities under G-forces. These are worn on the lower limbs and the abdomen.

Pressure suits also have a "tactile function" as they start to inflate, Welsh explained.

Military personnel exits aircraft centrifuge
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joe Pick, 1st Combat Camera Squadron, exits the centrifuge at the 711th Human Performance Wing, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, April 5, 2021.

Training Includes Centrifuges

In the Air Force, undergraduate pilots begin flight training on the T-6 single prop airplane - so they can experience moderate G-forces.

The next step is the T-38 trainer for fighter aircraft. Before pilots can train in that aircraft they go to AFRL in Dayton for tests of exposure to severe G-forces at the only DOD human-rated centrifuge.Wright Patterson News

The centrifuge can produce up to nine Gs, or nine times the normal force of gravity, to measure the student's ability to counteract the effects of G-forces to prevent GLOC.

Jet aviators must be able to sustain sudden changes in pressure and altitude at speeds approaching or exceeding the speed of sound and gravitational forces up to nine times the normal pull (9Gs). If an Air Force student aviator is assigned to F-15s, F-16s, F-22s or F-35s, they go back to Wright-Patterson AFB for more centrifuge training qualification.

Naval aviators get centrifuge testing at Brooks City Base in San Antonio, Texas. That centrifuge can produce more than seven-and-a-half Gs with various onset rates, Welsh said.

Both the Air Force and Navy also have a "low fidelity simulator" that connects an aviator's oxygen mask to a box "that scrubs oxygen out of the air they're breathing, and increases the amount of nitrogen they're breathing. They become hypoxic, meaning they lack of adequate oxygen levels to perform," Welsh explained. The pilots learn emergency procedures to overcome various physiological episodes that could cause incapacitation.

Water Survival Training

The highest risk training done by the Navy is water survival training, Welsh said. That is a whole day of learning how to prevent panic and to stay calm in extreme situations. "The primary objective of our water survival training is water comfort and controlling your fear," Welsh said.

In the water, instructors flip aviators upside down, blindfold them in a dunker while they're in their full gear – flight suits, boots, survival helmets, and a life preserver. The aviators also learn swimming strokes, and how to hold on to reference points.

One of the most difficult training drills is when their life preserver fails to inflate, Welsh said. In that situation, the pilots have to tread water with all their gear on and manually inflate the life preserver.

Nutrition and Exercise to Optimize Performance

The military trainers teach aviators about proper nutrition and exercise to optimize performance.

"Much like maintaining an aircraft, it's maintaining your body," Welsh said.

"If you don't give your body the proper amount of fuel, the right types of fuel, meaning calories, or the right types of food groups," pilots' bodies will not be able to stand up to a barrage of high G-force maneuvers, he said.

Low blood glucose levels can also impact G-force performance, Sauls said. Proper hydration and enough sleep to combat fatigue are also necessary, because human factors are the biggest cause for aviation mishaps, Welsh said.

The Air Force relies on lower body and core strength training. That means "we're going to think heavier weight, lower repetitions. Things like squats, lunges, and deadlifts really build up that base, improve that frame," Sauls said.

"And then from a cardiovascular standpoint, to best mirror the operational environment, we would lean more toward high-intensity interval training, sprint intervals, circuit training, only get a heart rate up for a short period, then rest and repeat."

Some bases are now hiring dietitians and conditioning coaches, Sauls added. The 19th Air Force19th Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, which oversees Air Force pilot training, has created formal instruction on how pilots can improve their diet and exercise.

The Army Aviation Center of ExcellenceArmy Aviation Center of Excellence is the Army Aviation Branch's training and development center, located at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

USAACE trains and develops "agile and adaptive" Army aviators, manages the aviation enterprise, and "integrates aviation capabilities and requirements across the warfighting functions to enable commanders and soldiers on the ground to fight and win in an increasingly complex world."

You also may be interested in...

Innovation working group strives to enhance METC training

Article
7/20/2021
Military personnel using virtual reality

Virtual/augmented reality, 3D printing, video/podcast production, and machine learning/artificial intelligence technologies and others like them will enhance the training students receive at METC and elsewhere by supplementing the lectures and providing realistic alternatives to actual experiences.

Recommended Content:

Education & Training | Medical Education and Training Campus

AJ-Maste Yoga: Tips for a Healthy Deployment

Article
7/13/2021
Military personnel doing a yoga pose

Yoga comes in many forms and fashions, and has proven health benefits.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Total Force Fitness

New Stop the Bleed course designed specifically for HS students

Article
7/7/2021
A medical care training exercise

New First Aid for Severe Trauma Training Can Help High School Students ‘Stop the Bleed’

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Education & Training

Medical Advances Since Gulf War Boil Down to Increased Lives Saved

Article
6/25/2021
Medical personnel training on how to treat a neck wound

Not all medical advances since the first Gulf War are highly technical.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Research and Innovation

DHA Spearheads Effort for Working Dog Research Collaboration

Article
6/25/2021
Picture of three different dogs

Working Dog Forum explored research to keep dogs in top form.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Veterinary Service | Public Health | Research and Innovation

DHA’s Skills-Based Training provides tools to become better leaders

Article
6/10/2021
Screenshot of training session with multiple people

The Defense Health Agency’s Education and Training Directorate (J-7) provides professional and leadership courses to service members, civilians, and contractors.

Recommended Content:

Education & Training

Army’s 773rd administers mobile COVID-19 testing during DEF21

Article
6/4/2021
Three military personnel, wearing masks and lab coats, pose for a picture in an Albanian lab.

Approximately 800 Army Reserve soldiers from the U.S. and Europe participated in DEFENDER-Europe 21.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Readiness Capabilities

ADVISOR brings support to medical personnel in austere environments

Article
5/27/2021
Photo of Michael Kile, LPN, the operational readiness program manger

The Military Health System offers the Advanced Virtual Support for Operational Forces program, or ADVISOR, for remote military medical professionals.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Readiness & Combat Support

Ask the Doc: Fitness Freaking Out

Article
5/26/2021
Integrating healthy snacks like fruit into kid’s diets will teach them healthy eating habits. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sabrina Fine)

Dear Doc: It seems like every time I go to the commissary, my daughter, 6, and son, 7, tend to gravitate toward the sugary cereals and frozen pizzas, and always want candy bars and sodas at the checkout. As far as I know, and as has been proven by their regularly scheduled check-ups, they are both in great health. The mother in me wants to give them what they want, but the former college athlete and current fitness freak in me is afraid that this might become a problem. For me, eating healthy has become a normal part of my life, and I've come to enjoy things that are healthy and taste good. Aside from tricking them, what can I do to get my kids to eat (and enjoy) more healthy foods? — Fitness Freaking Out

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Ask The Doc

Signs and symptoms of a stroke, and what to do about them

Article
5/18/2021
Infographic about the sign of a stroke

For Stroke Awareness Month, we highlight some of the most important facts about strokes in men and women.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence

METC trains BHT students in full range of mental health support

Article
5/14/2021
Two servicemembers talking at a table

Military mental health professionals provide a critical role in behavioral health care for service members and beneficiaries.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Mental Health: Seeking Care with TRICARE | Education & Training | Medical Education and Training Campus

METC NDT trainees learn about brain disorders & care

Article
4/23/2021
Military health personnel wearing face mask practicing using an EEG

NDTs help diagnose problems with the brain and nervous system, as well as sleep disorders, by use of state-of-the-art digital equipment to record electrical patterns which result in valuable data that the doctor needs to diagnose and treat their patients.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Education & Training | Medical Education and Training Campus

Do sports / energy drinks enhance individual performance?

Article
4/12/2021
Military health personnel wearing face mask discussing food options

While there are many energy sports drinks are available, their overall value varies.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

Occupational Therapy Month highlights pros who give everyday help

Article
4/6/2021
Military health personnel wearing face mask attending occupational therapy

April is Occupational Therapy Month, a chance to highlight a profession that helps people to accomplish the everyday tasks they need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities.

Recommended Content:

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention | Physical Fitness | April

METC trains dietician techs to build, support a Medically Ready Force

Article
3/18/2021
Military health personnel preparing food trays while wearing a face mask

Nutrition plays an important role in military readiness.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Education & Training | Medical Education and Training Campus
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 7
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 20, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery