Serving at Sea: Surviving a crash landing

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NORFOLK, Va. (WDBJ7) -- U-S Navy aircraft carriers are known for their speed and versatility at sea.

The only way onto one, while it's underway, is by flight.

Naval aviators, sailors or anyone who rides in the back of an aircraft onto a carrier, must first pass swim training.

And I'm no different.

RELATED: Serving at Sea: Suiting up as a Sailor

Petty Officer second Class Cameron Shaw has been with the Navy for more than 10 years and now trains sailors how to survive a crash landing at sea. "We throw you in the water, we make sure you're comfortable and hopefully you can survive," said Shaw.

Each trainee is suited up in steel toed boots, coveralls, an inflatable life vest and helmet; all designed to make the training more realistic. "A lot of the issues comes from comfortability in the water; and that's what we try to teach, that's what we try to stress," said Shaw.

Now in full gear, it's my turn to get in the water.

Even photographer Andrew Christy had to get in on training in order to accompany me on flights.

At minimum, recruits need to be able to swim 50 yards and float for five minutes - which doesn't sound hard until you consider the boots, coveralls and helmet.

Next, we trained on drown proofing, a method used for surviving by allowing your body to rest in the water. "The more comfortable you are in the water, the more proficient you'll be in the water. If you're panicking and all that stuff, you start to struggle, you start to struggle, you don't think as well, when you stop thinking, you start drowning," said Shaw.

Lastly, underwater egress training - that includes learning how to find and keep reference points in the event of a disaster. "We try and stress the reference points, hand over hand, make your way to where you need to go to find your exit. If you don't have a reference point, you're going to get lost. So maintaining your reference point, staying calm and getting yourself out of the aircraft," said Shaw.

Getting out of the aircraft in all scenarios, he said, such as an upside down crash landing. "Nobody plans to crash, but if you do go down in the water for whatever reason, you want to make sure you have the skills available to yourself to keep yourself alive until rescue crews can come and get you," Shaw added.