(Via Ho’okele News)
Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
Defense Media Activity-Hawaii
Placed in the middle of the woods, pursued by an unknown number of adversaries, and facing the day’s last light sinking beyond the horizon is exactly the type of setting survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) in which instructors hope to train aircrew members. The setting is the training ground for the SERE combat survival course (CST) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), where aircrew members train on how to survive and evade capture in case it is needed during a real world situation.
Aircrew members are required to attend SERE CST as a refresher every 36 months to ensure that vital skillsets are maintained in case they survive a crash or have to ditch their aircraft, potentially behind enemy lines.
During the training, air-crew members are refamiliarized on land navigation, evasion and escape tactics, recovery procedures and an emphasis on communication.
“What we like to throw at them up front is just that awareness of survival radios,” said Tech. Sgt. Michael Garcia, 15th Operations Support Squadron SERE instructor.
“They’ve changed over the years, and a lot of air-crew just might not be as proficient as what they assumed they were with the old radios,” he said.
Garcia explained what SERE CST is intended to accomplish.
“It’s an in-depth training course that could be 14 hours throughout the entire day of academics, field demonstrations to what we call student practices,” Garcia said.
“It’s a live demo of what it would look like from the initial gathering of equipment to the different stages of evasion. Then they get to go out on their own, we observe them for a little bit, and then we kick them out, and they go through a low light to a last light movement.”
In a real world scenario, there is the potential that aircrew members could be pursued by enemy forces and SERE instructors make sure to simulate the threat while Airmen move through the course. After escaping capture, aircrew members navigate through the terrain toward a location where they can be recovered while simulated opposing forces agress and pursue them.
“First and foremost, what we want them to be able to adopt, is a will to survive,” Garcia said. “It’s the ability to overcome the uncomfortable, to be able to persevere through the environment and the uncomfortable situation that they find themselves in,” he said.
SERE instructors at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam conduct combat survival training once a month, 12 months a year, to ensure aircrew members are qualified and better prepared for a worst case scenario.
Garcia hopes the training provided has positive and life-saving results for the aircrew he trains.
“I hope that if they find themselves in a situation they are able to utilize their equipment, utlize their radios, and be able to communicate,” Garcia said.
“They need to know that there are people out there looking for them and know the Department of Defense as a whole, the joint force, has a complete rescue package that’s waiting for them to get them picked up, within a matter of minutes if we can.”