Monday, July 8, 2019

U.S. Coast Guard 9D5 Dunker, USCG 1986, USCG Aviation Technical Training Center Elizabeth City, NJ, HH65A Dolphin Helicopter

I was recently digging through my old sea chest, looking for a few misplaced treasures, and I came across a very unique bit of US Coast Guard aviation history, and a snapshot out of my past.

I found the original 9D5 Dunker training pamphlet that was handed out to everyone in my Aviation Machinists Mate, Class "A" School class, back in 1986!  This was during my time at US Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Elizabeth City, NC. (between USCG Station Grays Harbor and USCG Air Station Borinquen).

A photo of  myself at USCG Air Station Borinquen, 1986

All US Coast Guard aviators must complete the 9D5 Dunker training in order to fly on any Coast aircraft as a pilot or air crewman.  The first time you "ride the Dunker" is during flight school, or "A" school.  After that there is a re-certification that occurs (or did occur) every 3 years for the guys who continued flying on helicopters.  Since I was in "A" school, this was my first time through the training.  If you didn't pass all the Dunker rides, you were out of the school and headed back to a ship!  

As a side note, I believe that all of the old 9D5 Dunkers have been retired, sometime around 2008, and replaced with a newer model.   You still have to ride a dunker, but the new one's look way nicer than the "metal barrel" we rode back in the 1980's!

At the time I was in the Coast Guard, the 9D5 Dunker was located at Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC), Norfolk, Virginia, and was run by the US Navy.  When the appointed day arrived, we all loaded up and headed to Norfolk.  It was a full day of survival swim training (in full flight gear), and 5 rides on the 9D5, also in full flight gear.

Full flight gear means, flight suit, flight boots, gloves, flight helmet, and survival vest with weights in the pockets.............for the first ride that is.  After your first ride, then you got the black hood over your head, in addition to all your flight gear.  That way you would have zero visibility for the next four rides.  Sound like fun?  No?  Well there is more to it than that.

Basically the Dunker is a big barrel shaped, mock helicopter, equipped with a cockpit and crew seating in the cargo area.  All the windows have welded steel mesh over them, with the exception of the cockpit side windows and the cargo side door.  It is equipped with seats that have standard 5-point harnesses, just like the ones in use on the helicopters.

The Dunker is suspended about 20 feet above a deep pool, with cables.  After a full crew is loaded up and strapped in, (two in the cockpit, and four in the crew area), it is dropped into the water.  As soon as it hits, it starts to roll over and sink.  This is when it get "real"!
Depending on what side you are on, you either immediately go under water, or have time to think about it as you roll over and then submerge.  
After grabbing a short breath, you hang out in your seat, strapped in, and upside down, until the water stops surging.  Then everyone releases and egresses from the upside down and submerged "helo".  Everyone makes their way to the side cargo door, hand over hand, and then out the door, in an orderly manner.  After you are out, it's up to the surface, and that welcome breathe of fresh air.  Oh yes, did I say that 4 of the 5 rides you are wearing a hood over your head?  That is the panic, disorientation, "I feel like I'm about to drown", water rammed up your nose and into your sinuses, part of the "ride".
Basically you have to control the panic urges, and trust me, it feels like you are right on the edge.  For anyone who "freaks out" and panics, there are US Navy Divers in place to drag your water-logged butt out, so you can try that ride again!  Trust me, you do not want to "freak out", and give those divers a reason to do their job.  If you release your harness too early, then you get sucked back to the end of the  Dunker where you are pressed against the end steel mesh by the surging water, until you drown, or until a Navy Diver saves you........... just a little added incentive to not screw things up!

Passing the Dunker is one of those very significant milestones you pass on the way to your Naval Aviator or Air Crewman Wings (pilot or crewman).  For those who don't, or can't, pass the Dunker, it's the walk of shame, and back to a cutter you go.  We actually lost a couple of guys from our class because they couldn't complete the rides.  It was sad to see them go.

For those of us who went on to fly on helicopters, we could look forward to more yearly "Dunker-style" training at our air stations to qualify to use the Underwater Escape Re-Breather vests that we all wore.

Before we take a look at the entire pamphlet, you can take a look at my earlier posts about my time at USCG Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico, and the gear I wore:

Here is the entire pamphlet.  For those of you who "rode the 9D5 Dunker", back in the day, it'll bring back a few memories.  For the rest of you, here's a glimpse at what it takes to get your wings.  You can click on any of the photos to get a larger, full screen view.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Orginal Swedish Army Kåsa Cup, Kuska Cup for Swedish Mess Kit, Old compared to New Cup, Stellana Laxa, Three Crowns

After my previous blog posting showing my new-made, Wildo cups, I made a concerted effort to track down an original Swedish Army cup.  I succeeded! 

I located a stash of original Swedish Army Kåsa Cups being sold by a company in Finland.  The price was quite good, so I picked one up.  Now I have an original to display with my Swedish kits, and a new Wildo cup for field use.  The best of both worlds.

Here is a link to the original posting about the Wildo cups:

Let's take a look at the original Swedish issued cup and then we'll do a side-by-side comparison with the Wildo cup.

The original Swedish issue cup is made of a very hard plastic, in an olive drab color, with a smooth finish.

The cup is marked on the underside of the handle with the Swedish Three Crowns, the manufacturer's name, and the numeral 10.  

The company name is STELLANA LAXA.

The cup is designed to fit inside  the Swedish Mess Kit.

When the original cup is compared to the new-made, Wildo cup, there are a few obvious differences.

The first difference is the color.  The Original is an olive green color, and the new Wildo cup is more of a evergreen green color.

Wildo cup on left, Original on right.

The plastic is rigid  and hard on the original, and softer and flexible on the Wildo cup.

The bottom of the original is quite rounded, with a slight flat area in the center.  The Wildo cup has a larger flat area.  Between the two, the new Wildo cup is much more stable when sitting on a flat surface.

Wildo cup on left, Original on right.

Of course the names and stamp marking as different as well.

I think for everyday, modern bushcraft, or camping uses, I would have to choose the new Wildo cup.  It is made from BPA free plastic, and is slightly flexible, both positive attributes.  Another big plus is the fact that the Wildo cup has a flatter bottom, making it more stable when sitting on its own.  Other than that, they are both very similar, and you wouldn't be disappointed either way!

Let's take a look at the cups, side-by-side.  Just to re-cap, the Original Swedish Cup is olive, and the new Wildo cup is evergreen.  Here they are.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Swiss Mess Kit and Norwegian Mess Kit Comparison, Schweizer Essgeschirr Kochgeschirr Gamelle, Kokekar fra det Norske Forsvaret

As promised, here is the blog posting that compares the Swiss and Norwegian Mess Kits.  It will be a short one, as I've already covered both them in previous posts.  

You can take a look at the individual kits on these blog pages:

Now let's get on the with the comparison!

As I stated before, the two mess kits are basically the same, with the Swiss kit being much larger.  The Norwegian kit is closer in size to the "standard" German mess kit from WW2.

Both of the kits use the unique "two hole" system for extending the handle with a stick.

As far as I know, these are the only two countries that have used this unique handle.  

Sweden used a handle that shared the concept of being able to use a stick to extend the handle, but their approach was a bit different.  They actually added two D-rings that allowed a much better use of a stick for a handle.  The Swedish style is my personal favorite.

Swedish Mess Kit Cup with D-Rings

Swedish Mess Kit Cup with Handle Extension.

Let's take a side-by-side look at the Swiss and Norse kits.  The Swiss kit is black.  The Norwegian kit is green.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Swiss Mess Kits, Schweizer Essgeschirr Kochgeschirr Gamelle, Sigg, WW1, WW2, Post-War, Cold War

I've been organizing the bunker, and came across my stash of Swiss Mess kits.  Since I was dragging them out, I figured it was probably time to show a couple off on the blog, so here we go.

Before Swiss Link, burned down last November, I ordered up a big pile of these Swiss mess kits.  These were some of the last of the Swiss surplus kits available in the USA.  I'm glad I did, because the rest of their inventory turned into a puddle of molten aluminum during the inferno that was the "Camp Fire" in Paradise, California.  These amazing mess kits, just got even more rare............

These Swiss mess kits were some of the largest mess kits that were used after WW1.  The German model 1910 mess kits, and the Swiss mess kits, were nearly identical.  The only real differences were the lid handles and metal strap loops.  After WW1, Germany redesigned their mess kits into a smaller version.  Switzerland did not.  They kept this same, large mess kit, and issued it out from the WW1 era, through the 1990's.

The mess kits we'll be looking at today, all date in the 1980's and 1990's.   Many were made by the still famous, Swiss company Sigg, and all are stamped with the Swiss Cross.

Black seems to be the predominant post-war color of the Swiss mess kits, with green being used during the WW2 years.  I also understand that there were "Swiss Gray" colored kits produced in the 1950's to 1960's.  The only difference that I can find between the "war years" kits, and post-war kits, is the stamped dates, and paint colors.   There is one interesting difference with some of the Swiss, post-war kits, and that is the bail lugs.

The standard bail lug on nearly all of the Swiss mess kits is the "stud-lug style".  This was used since they they were first produced over 100 years age.

In some of the later, post-war kits, there was a change to the post-war "German Style Lug".

All of the mess kits in my possession that have these German lugs, seem to have been made by a company that used the stamp JE.

The German style bail lugs allow the bail to catch at about 90 degrees on one side to assist with pouring.  The stud-lugs allow the bail to rotate 360 degrees.   As to which is better, all depends on personal preference.  

As with all of these "German Style" mess kits, the lid fits on the top of the lower pot two ways: cup down, or cup up.

One very unique thing that sets these Swiss kits apart, is the distinctive handle.  The only other country to use this style handle is Norway, and I believe that Norway copied the design from the Swiss (the Norse made their mess kits in the 1950's - 1970's).  I'll do a comparison between the Swiss and Norwegian kits in my next posting.
You can see the Norwegian Mess Kit here:

The handles are designed with two holes.  These holes allow a stick to be inserted to make a handle extension for cooking over a fire, or as an insulated handle when the cup is hot.   This really gives this kit an advantage over the others when using it as a campfire cook pot.

These Swiss kits hold an amazing 2 liters of liquid!  When it comes to actually cooking over a fire, the Swiss kit is my go-to mess kit.  They are the perfect size to cook for two.

There is a single strap loop riveted to the handle.  

The official Swiss strap buckles around the kit, with a stud-fastened, secondary attached, strap-tab that allows the kit to be attached to the pack or bread bag.

Here are a couple of shots of the Swiss mess kit straps.

Let's take a closer look at the Swiss kits.   I have included a number of side-by-side comparison shots of the two style lugs.