The U.S. Coast Guard has introduced an in-the-water rescue training program that uses life-size mannequins.

Coast Guard Auxiliary Division 12 officials hope the program will eventually spread around the country.

A Marina del Rey-based Coast Guard Auxiliary group has begun the training program, aimed at increasing the speed and effectiveness of in-the-water rescue and recovery operations.

Spearheaded by Jeff Pielet, a 28-year Coast Guard Auxiliary member and longtime qualification examiner, the five-year effort to bring the project to fruition has as its centerpiece five life-size man-overboard mannequins — called MOBs — that are used as simulated in-the-water victims.

The MOBs are named Ally, Bert, Charlie, Della and Ernie and are being used in all division crew rescue and recovery training efforts.

The mannequins are also available to the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Halibut, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Marine Division and County Fire Department lifeguards and county fire boats.

“With the addition of the MOBs to our training, we have created a realistic situation while challenging the minds and bodies of [Coast Guard] auxiliarists going through their annual or initial coxswain or crew qualification,” Pielet said.

The MOBs have also been used in joint auxiliary and Coast Guard training exercises off Playa del Rey beach.

Coast Guard lt(jg) Khris Johns, captain of the Halibut, says that the mannequins “allow a much improved, realistic aspect to a ‘man overboard’ situation because they best simulate the weight and feel of a real victim.”

In addition to putting the mannequins in survival suits, Pielet devised a way to add weights to the “simulated” victims.

By doing so, he created a much more difficult retrieval condition, compared to the traditional use of a boat fender, personal flotation device life jacket or life ring.

Another dimension to the program was added when Pielet came up with the idea of treating injuries upon retrieval, something that up until now has not been done.

Part of the rescue training includes a medical situation, stating symptoms ranging from a simple cut or burn to hypothermia, broken bone or an unconscious person.

“Each medical situation is sealed in an envelope with the MOB’s name written on it and carried aboard the boat,” Pielet said. “Crews never know who they will be recovering.

“When the specific MOB is brought aboard the boat, that envelope is opened.

“The crew is required to immediately tend to the first aid needs, which helps keep everyone sharp.”

“This is the first time I have seen simulated medical training coupled with the process of man-overboard training,” said Greg Daley, a Coast Guard captain. “Simulating medical treatment for a cause determined immediately after the MOB has been retrieved effectively steps training to a new level.”

The official in charge of Coast Guard Auxiliary operations training in the Eleventh District (South) is Coast Guard CWO2 Mark Matuschek.

He said that while there are some units in the Coast Guard that are using this type of MOB approach, he does not know of any other instances within the auxiliary system where mannequins are used in recovery training.

“The MOBs allow auxiliarists to experience the difficulty of pulling an immobile person out of the water and onto the boat,” Daley said. “Prior to this program, auxiliarists were faced with the reality only in a real life emergency, which presented many unforeseen difficulties.”

“The BoatU.S. Foundation provided the grant funds to support the MOB project,” said Eric De Cuir, rear commodore Los Angeles North. “All five flotillas in the division — four in Marina del Rey and one in King Harbor, plus Flotilla 02 of Division 4 based at the California Yacht Club, are already benefiting from the use of the mannequins in crew training.

“This benefits the boating public because we are better prepared if they are in need and require help.”