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Terminal Lance #217 “The Underwater Level”


In nearly every video game every made, there’s the one part of it that is a chore to go through. You don’t look forward to it, you loathe the idea of it, but you power through it anyway and the reward is never worth it. Of course, I’m talking about the underwater level.

For those of you unfamiliar with the “Helo Dunker,” it’s basically the underwater level of the Marine Corps–literally and figuratively. No one wants to do it, but it’s possibly you’ll be forced to. It’s a horrifying, scarring and traumatic event that many Marines have to go through in order to be qualified on underwater evacuation of a helicopter. Basically, they strap you in a metal cage, lower you into a pool and rotate you upside-down. Your objective is to escape before you drown.

Yes, it’s as awful as it sounds.

Of course, it is relatively safe. There are safety divers that submerge with each round to make sure the Marines don’t die underwater. Of course they don’t pull you out until after you’ve reached the point of feeling like you’re going to drown a horrible watery death.

I had one instance during the Helo Dunker that I had to be pulled out, I’m not gonna lie, I panicked. I couldn’t get the window open behind me and my held breath was ready to give, I flailed my arms around and did whatever I could think of in a desperate panic to tell the divers to drag me out. The diver rushed me out just in time, I caught my breath and sulked in my lost pride for a few minutes before going back in.

The only other time I needed assistance wasn’t my fault actually, this was during one of the HEEDS bottle rounds. I did everything by the numbers, had the mouthpiece firmly in my mouth and was ready to go. This was the mass evacuation, where everyone had to move down the line to one window at the end. I was near the end, I had moved down one seat and taken two breaths of my HEEDS bottle when the air just stopped coming. I signaled to the divers that I had no air left way too soon and they punched out the window behind me and I swam to safety.

Of the many things I did over my four years in the Marine Corps, the helo dunker was by far one of the worst; and probably the only thing I would absolutely never do again.

Infantry Marine turned Combat Artist turned animator turned bestselling author turned dad.

Terminal Lance #216 “Compensation”

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