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SERE: Preparing aircrew like their life depends on it

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Isaiah Miller
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- With the largest C-130J Super Hercules fleet in the Air Force, Little Rock Air Force Base is home to a multitude of aircrew and personnel who, in the event of a downed aircraft, run the risk of isolation in austere or hostile environments.

To facilitate readiness for such a scenario, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) specialists serve to train Airmen and equip them with the skills necessary to survive whatever situation they may find themselves in and return with honor.

“Our top priority is the aircrew that we prepare,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Tucker, 19th Operations Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of SERE operations and training. “If they go down, the most integral piece of the recovery process is the isolated personnel. If they don’t initiate the recovery process by making the proper communications and doing the things that we teach them, it makes recovery more difficult both for them and the recovery team.”

On the first week of every month, 15 to 20 aircrew members from agencies across Team Little Rock enter the doors of the SERE facility to receive four days of academics, participate in survival and evasion simulations, and get hands-on instruction to ensure full-spectrum readiness in the SERE domain.

This isn’t the first time that the members receive these academics. Before they go fully operational in their respective career fields, aircrew pass through an initial two-week SERE course at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington where they gain SERE experience for the first time.

The primary function of the SERE specialists at Little Rock is to refresh their knowledge so they can maintain proficiency in all aspects of SERE’s scope.

“Aircrew have a lot on their plates from day to day and their mission is full of various responsibilities,” Tucker said. “It can be hard for them to remember all they were taught in their initial SERE training. Our primary duty is to blow away some of the cobwebs and ensure their proficiency in all things survival, evasion, resistance and escape.”

The first two days are spent on revisiting academics in survival, evasion, communication and navigation, among other things. On day two, the members also go into the field and partake in an evasion simulation, evading hostility and navigating to a checkpoint where they are then recovered by friendly forces.

The third day of training is spent reminding the members of emergency parachuting procedures. This consists of strengthening their familiarization with the gear and procedures involved in safely putting that gear to use. At the end of the day parachute landing falls are practiced.

The fourth and final day of training concludes with water survival preparation, given to Airmen in case of isolation in a large body of water. This includes training in the realms of open water recovery and raft procedures.

 “The heart of what we do is the instruction and preparation that we offer,” Tucker said. “Seeing the aircrew prosper in those areas is definitely the most rewarding part of my job.”

When the SERE specialists aren’t providing Airmen with knowledge and skills that could someday save their life, they could be doing anything from familiarization flights, jumping out of aircraft, supporting  personnel recovery exercises, or getting ready for their next batch of students.

“Outside of the preparation setting, I’m able to go out and get a closer look at the aircraft, where their gear is, exactly what gear they’re using, how they brief the crews and really what’s going on in their minds while they’re operating,” Tucker said. “With that I’m able to tailor my training and give it a flavor that’s going to resonate with the aircrew.”

Whether it’s in the desert, the ocean, the arctic, the jungle or an enemy prison camp, service members must remain ready and willing to survive, evade, resist and escape any situation. The SERE specialist’s mission is to make sure that this is the case.

“The whole reason we go through almost a year of training in all of these different biomes is to take our knowledge and properly relay it to aircrew so they are as equipped as possible should they ever be placed in a situation where their lives depend on it,” Tucker said.