National Geographic : 1953 May
runs along the California Nevada border. Stead, a rather bleak, treeless encampment on the sagebrush flats be neath the mountains, houses the students for only five days. The rest of the 15-day course they spend in a wilderness training area, testing, un der conditions of real stress, their capacity-or incapacity-to survive. The moment these crews land at Stead they begin to realize they have left luxury behind. De barking from trucks, they draw sleeping bags and march off across dusty roads to the square hot tents they are to occupy and keep clean-while on the base. Next morning they stumble from their cots at 0530 to start their first day of indoctrination and appraisal. From then on, through three grueling days, the crews eat, drink, and dream survival. Lecturers pound the facts of out door life into them in con centrated bursts. Civilian 569 Drawn by Irvin E. Alleman SAC's Survival Training Emphasizes the Strategic North In a major war bomber crews would fly polar routes, hazarding snow and cold if downed. SAC's advanced school at Stead Air Force Base, Nevada, specializes in northern survival. Air Force bases are designated by open circles; towns and cities by solid circles. analysts run them through group performance tests. Jumpers refresh their knowledge of parachute technique (page 575). Radiomen check up on their skill with emergency transmitters, and instructors give them tips on terrestrial navigation. An Airman's Best Friend-His Chute One order which is rammed into them at every opportunity is this: hang on to your chute; it's an airman's best friend. They begin to understand why when they consider the catalogue of things that can be made from its canopy, shrouds, webbing, and metal fastenings. To name a few: Blankets, bedrolls, tepees, lean-tos, snares, slingshots, fishhooks and fish lines, nets, seines, mukluks, eye shields, hats, scarves, puttees, insect hoods, splints, bandages, slings, packs, sails, snowshoes, spearheads, and signal panels (pages 573, 596, and 598). When the crews aren't tied up in lectures and tests, they often drop into Stead's dis play building and study its static exhibits deadfalls and Apache foot snares, gun traps and gill nets, rafts, lean-tos, paratepees, fish spears, racks for smoking meat, and (in some ways the most interesting of all of them) the E-1 Survival Kit (pages 574 and 580). This 42-pound outfit, which a flyer can at tach to his chute harness, contains 42 items that give him the best possible chance of surviving in any climate, any terrain. They range from a 3'-pound folding-stock rifle to a vacuum-packed sleeping bag; from five days' concentrated rations to a mosquito net; from fishing tackle to extra socks. Each item has been slimmed down to its minimum size and weight; each has been field tested. Before students leave for the hills with this kit, they must get squared away on a primary problem of survival: how to reach land safely in the first place. Instructors at Stead remind them of some gruesome statis tics: one airman out of every three who bail out leaves his plane uninjured but is hurt or killed on landing. Some of these casualties come from smash ing into trees, some from drowning under the chute, some from poor posture on impact. But others in these days of stratospheric fly ing stem from ignorance or forgetfulness of the hazards of jumping from high altitudes. A man bailing out from a B-36 at 35,000 feet runs the risk of pulling his ripcord pre maturely and suffering a crippling jolt. Or he may fail to use his auxiliary oxygen tank, or use it improperly, and black out.