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Female SERE instructor at Fairchild 'teaches the guys'

Senior Airman Charlene Plante, 22nd Training Squadron, Survival Evasion Resistance Escape specialist, teaches her students triangulation March 13, 2011 in Colville National Forest, Wash., The purpose of this block of training is to teach students how to pinpoint their location using a map, compass and sticks. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. JT May III)

Senior Airman Charlene Plante, 22nd Training Squadron, Survival Evasion Resistance Escape specialist, teaches her students triangulation March 13, 2011 in Colville National Forest, Wash., The purpose of this block of training is to teach students how to pinpoint their location using a map, compass and sticks. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. JT May III)

A student uses a map and compass March 13, 2011 during Survival Evasion Resistance Escape training located in Colville National Forest, Wash. During the land navigation phase of SERE training, a map and compass is worth its weight in gold. A student is able to isolate to a five mile radius where they are on a map. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. JT May III)

A student uses a map and compass March 13, 2011, during survival, evasion, resistance and escape training in Colville National Forest, Wash. During the land navigation phase of SERE training, a student is able to isolate to a five mile radius on a map where he or she is located. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. J.T. May III)

A Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape student pops red smoke in anticipation of a rescue helicopter used during vectoring training March 13, 2011 at the Colville National Forest, Wash. The vector training gets students familiar with proper protocol to correctly guide a helicopter into position to safely rescue them if needed. This entails everything from authentication, to using a compass to pinpoint their heading for the pilot to be able to locate them.  (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. JT May III)

A survival, evasion, resistance and escape student from Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., pops red smoke March 13, 2011, in anticipation of a rescue helicopter during vector training in Colville National Forest, Wash. The vector training gets students familiar with proper protocol to correctly guide a helicopter into position to safely rescue them if needed. This entails everything from authentication, to using a compass to pinpoint their heading for the pilot to be able to locate them. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. J.T. May III)

A student holds up a completed snare made from copper wire March 13, 2011 during Survival Evasion Resistance Escape training located in Colville National Forest, Wash. The students are taught this technique to provide another resource to procure food in case in a survival situation. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. JT May III)

A student holds up a completed snare made from copper wire March 13, 2011, during survival, evasion, resistance and escape training in Colville National Forest, Wash. The students are taught this technique to provide another tool to procure food in case of a survival situation. ((U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. JT May III)

Senior Airman Charlene Plante, a 22nd Training Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., chops wood for a fire for her students March 13, 2011, in Colville National Forest, Wash. The fire will ensure her students have the capability of drying their wet clothes and provide much-needed warmth. Airman Plante will use this time to check her students for frostbite as a safety precaution. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. JT May III)

Senior Airman Charlene Plante, a 22nd Training Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., chops wood for a fire for her students March 13, 2011, in Colville National Forest, Wash. The fire will ensure her students have the capability of drying their wet clothes and provide much-needed warmth. Airman Plante will use this time to check her students for frostbite as a safety precaution. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. JT May III)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- As the sun ascends on a cold, dismal morning in Colville National Forest, Wash., it marks the beginning of a 14-hour day for this senior airman.

It has been snowing and raining for the past three days making the ground a wet, soggy, mud ice mixture. The temperature is slowly approaching the low 30's and the humidity gives the cool crisp air added moisture. The average person would get broken down mentally if they have to spend days in this austere environment, but not Senior Airman Charlene Plante, 22nd Training Squadron, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, or SERE, instructor. She's smiling from ear to ear because she's eager to begin the day's instruction and feels right at home in these conditions for weeks at a time.

'She's a very motivated and organized person who has a passion for the job," said Master Sgt. Travis Butikofer, flight chief for Charlie Flight, "She has the leadership ability and integrity that we need as SERE specialists."

It's March 13, training day two for these seven students -- Airmen who are future pilots, navigators or aircrew members. Today, they gather around the senior airman only one of two female instructors. She tells them the day's agenda without wearing a jacket despite the frigid temperatures: improvised shelters, triangulation, fire building, map reading, building and helicopter vectoring. Airman Plante's attitude is upbeat and contagious, which transcends to her students who prepare to set their sights on another rigid day of SERE training.

The Springville, Maine, native grew up building tree forts, hunting and playing in the woods located by her house. Her immense love for the outdoors played a pivotal role in her future as a SERE specialist.

Growing up she always knew she wanted a military life that would offer challenges, but didn't always know it would be in the Air Force. She recalls watching a Marine Corp documentary with her cousin, when she was younger and became intrigued by it. "I believed I was joining the Marines until my dad told me either Navy or Air Force," said Airman Plante.

When it came time to talk with an Air Force recruiter, she was given the opportunity of being a crew chief. The job offer wasn't adventurous enough. After the recruiter learned about her hobbies and what she liked to do, he suggested she join to be SERE instructor.

Airman Plante didn't think twice about choosing a career field that's not for the feign of heart or dominated by men. Since the 1950's, only about 12 to 14 women have successful passed the training to become certified SERE instructors. Nor the odds or grueling physical requirements didn't deter Airman Plante. The Air Force offered her the chance to do something she loved, which sweetened the deal.

Before becoming an instructor, those who become instructors must first complete the course they teach before enrolling in a six month SERE specialist training (SST) program. This is one of the most physically and mentally demanding technical schools in the Air Force. The 5-foot, 3-inch Airman starting making a name for herself by keeping up with her male counterparts in the field as well as the rigorous regiments. "

She is the best woodsman, my most dependable troop and one of the sharpest SERE specialist," said her supervisor Staff Sgt. Alan Morse.

Airman Plante is just shy of her three year mark and has already gained the respect of her peers by having a great work ethic, drive and dedication to physical fitness.

Though she's not decided at this time if she'll retire, She says she's taking things one enlistment at a time. "Whenever I have a 14 or 15 hour day, I think about all the people I have met that make this job rewarding.

"I'm a SERE Specialist in the U.S, Air Force. How cool is that?," said Airman Plante.