Jumpstarting the ANG SERE program

Jumpstarting the ANG SERE program

Survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) Instructor training is one of the most difficult and extensive training programs in the United States Air Force. It’s designed to do one thing – save lives in the midst of a worst case scenario – and is exactly the reason Master Sgt. Bob Miner took on the challenge of earning the title, which he now uses to train West Virginia Air National Guard members as the only SERE specialist in the state. The SERE motto is “Return with honor”, and is what they base they’re whole career off of: teaching members the skills to do just that. SERE Airmen must endure nearly two years of ruthless training designed to shape them into experts in their career fields. After an initial six-month long school where, on average, only 10 percent graduate, each SERE specialist must complete more than 45 weeks of on-the-job training to complete their skill sets. This training includes U.S. Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Georgia; arctic training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; water survival training in Pensacola, Florida; mountain training in Washington jungle training in Hawaii and even desert training in Nevada. “This is a job you really have to earn. There is so much training that goes into this,” Miner said. “It is critical to be able to relay the skills and information you possess to the others and enable them to get themselves out of a bad situation.” Training includes everything from land navigation, food and water procurement, shelter building, first aid, the military code of conduct, to shaping an Airman’s mentality that will be crucial for SERE operations in the worst of situations. The U.S. Air Force is looked to as the subject matter experts for SERE training, and is the only service to operate a full, career-long SERE Specialist cadre. It wasn’t long ago when the Air National Guard was required to rely on their active duty counterparts to train aircrew members who needed to be SERE qualified. When the National Guard Bureau approved 10 unit-level SERE Specialist positions for ANG Operational Support Squadrons in 2014, Miner took the opportunity to join the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, West Virginia and began his transition from active duty. He chose the 130th AW for a simple reason, to be closer to his family in his home state of New York, and hasn’t looked back. Since coming onboard, Miner has been providing the 130th AW’s aircrew, which consists of pilots, navigators, flight engineers, loadmasters and aeromedical evacuation personnel, with the most current training in local area survival, combat survival, conduct after capture, water survival and emergency parachute training. In addition to that, Miner also assists with unit-level personnel recovery responsibilities such as Isolated Personnel Report Program (ISO-PREP), evasion plans of action and individual issue personnel recovery kits. The most challenging part of his transition was his arrival, he said, and being tasked with developing a SERE program at the 130th AW. “It was a big learning curve for me, the Guard is just such a unique and different setting,” he explained. “Here we practically have 48 hours a month, not including the allotted training days every year, to get everyone qualified, on top of trying to realize that you’re only one priority on a huge list of the Commander’s readiness spectrum.” Miner’s reach just isn’t to the 130th AW though, he also gives a hand to units that don’t have the privilege of a SERE Specialist, as do fellow specialists from across the Air Guard. From the 130th AW’s “sister unit,” the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, to places as far away as Puerto Rico and Washington, Miner’s training has enhanced numerous units’ survival outcome. “We don’t have a written agreement or anything, just when we have time, we help,” Miner said. “So many units don’t get the proper training since unqualified personnel have to give them what knowledge they can, and we have to try to fill those gaps.” Miner has grown to appreciate his new home in West Virginia. Being an avid outdoorsman, he claims that he’s enjoyed discovering all that the state has to offer and that West Virginia would be the perfect setting for an east coast version of SERE School. It is obvious that Miner takes pride in his career. To Miner, his job isn’t just a day-in, day-out, nine-to-five job. It’s spending nights outside in the wilderness, traveling across the country and experiencing some of the most beautiful places the United States has to offer. More than anything, he said, it’s knowing that if something happened to the people he has trained, he could be the reason they make it back home safe. CHARLESTON, WV, UNITED STATES 09.08.2018 Story by Airman 1st Class Caleb Vance  130th Airlift Wing Air National Guard Public[…]

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NY PJs send team to assist in hurricane efforts

NY PJs send team to assist in hurricane efforts

WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y.–The New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing is deploying over 80 personnel, an HC-130 search and rescue aircraft, four zodiac boats, and one HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopter as part of the nation’s Hurricane Florence response. Based at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base at the eastern tip of Long Island, the 106th is one of three Air National Guard search and Rescue Wings. “New York knows first-hand the devastation that extreme weather can leave behind, and we stand ready to help those who are in the path of Hurricane Florence in any way we can,” said New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “New Yorkers always help their neighbors in their time of need and just as we have stood shoulder to shoulder with Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida after last year’s destructive storms, we will once again stand ready to lend a hand to our fellow Americans,” Cuomo said. The 106th deployed people, boats and aircraft to Texas and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in August and September, 2017. The 106th Airmen were credited with rescuing 546 people in Texas using boats and helicopters and assisting in the airlift of 1,500 Americans from the island of St. Maartens following Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Florence is expected to come ashore in North Carolina and South Carolina as a category 2 Hurricane with a massive storm surge that will cause flooding. People along the coast have been urged to evacuate. On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the 106th began deploying personnel and equipment to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware. Pararescuemen from the 106th Rescue Wing’s headed to Dover towing four Zodiac rescue boats. The remaining personnel boarded three HC-130s and headed to Dover on Thursday morning. One of the HC-130s remained at Dover AFB as part of the response package, while the other two shuttled people and equipment. The package of 111 people includes pararescue personnel trained in conducting rescues from boats and helicopters, aircrews, maintenance personnel and additional support Airmen. “This is who we are. This is what we do. We are happy to be able to help,” said Col. Michael Bank, the wing commander, about the deployment “We train all year round to provide this capability and ensure we are ready when needed,” Bank added. Along with the team from the 106th Rescue Wing, the New York National Guard is prepared to deploy four Army National Guard helicopters from the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport. Two CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopters from Company B 3rd Battalion 126th Aviation Regiment and two medical evacuation helicopters from Company C 1st Battalion 171st General Support Aviation Battalion and their aircrews are on standby to respond if necessary. WESTHAMPTON BEACH, NY, UNITED STATES 09.13.2018 Story by Eric Durr and Capt. Michael O’Hagan New York National Guard   //ENDS// Story extracted from DVIDS For more stories like this on specialtactics.com, click HERE

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Ex-commando inspires youth for special operations

Ex-commando inspires youth for special operations

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Arnold T. Stocker, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) in Broward County, Florida, has served in the military for more than 40 years and operates South Florida Tactical Athletes, a preparatory school for those wishing to join the most coveted jobs the U.S. military has to offer. During his military career, Stocker has completed two special operation duties as a former Army Special Forces medical sergeant (with combat diver certification) and Air Force Pararescueman. Regardless of branch of service, special operation programs have a high standard of acceptance and a passing rate of lower than 10 percent. According to Stocker, thousands will try out, a hundred will get chosen for selection training and less than 10 will graduate. “To come to our program takes a lot of guts, dedication and motivation,” Stocker said. “We get men and women who are a cut above the rest; many of them are former athletes who think they are in great shape, but it’s not about being the fastest or strongest. It’s about expanding your circle of comfort and your mind, developing as a young adult and learning to work as a team.” Four days a week Stocker and four other instructors, a former pararescueman, a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer, and two Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance members, coach more than 20 men and women in running, swimming, water confidence, and team building exercises for two to three hours. Each week participants spend two days in the water and two days on land. They also participate in one extended training session a month on the weekend. The training includes warming up, calisthenics, underwater tasks, rucksack marching, sprinting, working together and listening to directions. “Each day is different and when people come to our program, we brief them beforehand but they don’t really know what to expect,” Stocker said. “We provide them with a challenge and we focus on proper form and technique; with that comes the speed.” Stocker envisioned SFTA to be the beginning step for future special operations men and women who will one day lead the nation’s defenses. So far, the program has trained more than 100 men and women since 2012, but Stocker’s journey training others to follow in his footsteps started 6 years prior. While visiting his home state of Pennsylvania, a friend told Stocker that his son would like to become a pararescueman. “He’s the first guy I can say I prepared to become a PJ (pararescueman),” Stocker said. “It’s an awesome feeling for me and every one of the instructors at SFTA, when one of ours makes it through selection. We aren’t just giving them a physical challenge, we are setting them up for the rest of their lives.” Stocker is versed in special operations, but his military journey began in the Air Force as a jet engine mechanic and then he later joined an aeromedical evacuation team on C-141 Starlifter aircraft. He wanted to join the pararescue career field, the military’s combat-search-and-rescue tip of the spear, but didn’t know how to swim. He hired a swim coach to learn stroke techniques and was later sent to the pararescue indoctrination course. “I failed the swim.” Stocker said. “I do (SFTA) because when I was training there was no program around. I told my swim instructor what I wanted to do and he had no idea about water confidence training. I also do it because I enjoy training and mentoring.” Today as a traditional reservist, Stocker oversees patient triage from aircraft to hospital and acts as a patient’s advocate while confirming patients are kept in stable conditions before the next echelon of care. He has two daughters and says the greatest challenge has been juggling his family, anesthesia profession, his reserve duty and SFTA. He couldn’t do it without the help of his instructors and his love for helping others. One other SFTA instructor who works with Stocker, former pararescueman Mike Mahoney, said he also does this job for the enjoyment of developing young adults into great men and women. “Just the other day I had one of those moments when I saw a guy swimming and I thought to myself, wow that’s good form,” Mahoney said. “I wanted to know who that person was, and it turned out to be one of our students who came to us not knowing how to swim. Now he’s working as a lifeguard and wants to become a pararescueman.” Leo Fernandez, one of the participants who joined SFTA not knowing how to swim said Stocker and the coaches have changed his life, both physically and mentally. “I can honestly say I would not have stood a chance in selection without Colonel Stocker,” Fernandez said. “He has worked with me on my swims and has taught me how to get out[…]

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136. Thai Cave Rescue Part 5

In this final installment of the Thai rescue Derek debriefs and summarizes some of the lessons learned. If you found this interesting and are new to PJ Medcast go back and listen to podcasts 944-97 and listen to the series on the MV Tamar rescue mission. Remember the Handbook is summarized in the first 20… Read more

135. Thai Cave Rescue Part 4

The PJ TL describes the step by step actions and meticulous attention to detail the disparate group of rescuers performed to safely and successfully get the children and the coach out. Learn about the level professionalism that was displayed to perform this high profile, high risk mission. Watching the news as PJs are on standby… Read more

135. Thai Cave Rescue Part 3

Part 3 of 5. Operation Wild Boar. Another exceptional discussion of the evolution of this incredible mission that gripped the world. Today is 9-11-2018. On behalf of TEAM NY, the 103rd Rescue Squadron, we send our warmest wishes to the survivors of the citizens, FDNY, NYPD, PAPD members and others who perished on 9-11.  We… Read more

134. Part 2 Thai Cave Rescue

This second in a  series of 5 podcasts were cut from a long discussion so there is no intro or closing to most of them. This podcast begins to discuss mission execution and the rescue of the children and coach from the wild boars soccer team. Check out the updated pjmed.com website. Check out specialtactics.com… Read more
SERE: ‘We do our best so they can do theirs’

SERE: ‘We do our best so they can do theirs’

Training Liberty Airmen to survive, evade, resist and escape in any environment so that they can return home with honor, is what 48th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists live for. SERE specialists train Airmen on an array of skills needed for survival. The program contains a dozen training courses to include; Local Area Survival, Conduct After Capture, Combat Survival Training, Water Survival Training and Emergency Parachute Training. “We put aircrew in an environment that’s new, and we force them to adapt,” said Staff Sgt. Derreck Day, the 48th OSS SERE Training NCOIC. “If they ever find themselves in these situations they’ll have the muscle memory and the tools available to overcome challenges they may be faced with.” A combined effort of the 48th Fighter Wing, 100th Refueling Wing and 352nd Special Operations Wing SERE teams ensure that USAFE aircrews receive the best training possible in the U.K., and provide Airmen with a plethora of resources to draw knowledge from. “Having three wings within such a close proximity is great for the SERE program,” said Tech. Sgt. Derek Owens, the 48th OSS SERE Group Operations NCOIC. “They all have their own SERE team, and we can come together to provide great training with far more capabilities with the assets provided by each wing.” Pilots and other aircrew are required to receive refresher training on these skills every three years. “SERE training helps aircrew survivability by teaching us some of the basics on how to survive in a multitude of environments if we have to eject out of our aircraft,” said Lt. Col. William Wooten, 492nd Fighter Squadron commander. “They teach us how to handle situations and the postures we need to assume if we are captured by the enemy, focusing on always trying to get home. The training SERE specialists give us is extremely realistic and they are constantly analyzing and updating their teaching methods based on real-world incidents. These professionals make it their mission to make sure that we come home to our family with honor and dignity.” Since World War II, pilots and other aircrew have undergone SERE training for a survival mindset at home and abroad. The training taught in current times has been refined with years of experience and lessons learned poured into it. “The SERE program here has been going on for a long time, so we’ve had time to improve,” said Owens. “We stay in tune with all of the tactics, technique and procedures that the bad guys are trying to employ on us, and we tailor our training so we can continue to give them the latest and greatest skills they need to survive, evade, resist and escape.” NORFOLK, UNITED KINGDOM 07.25.2018 Story by Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield  48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs   //ENDS// Story extracted from DVIDS  

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Ramstein Airmen conduct SERE training in Romania

Ramstein Airmen conduct SERE training in Romania

BOLOVANI, Romania — Downed pilots navigate through dense woods swatting away spider-webs as they make their way to a safe location. With a compass and some training, they emerge from the timber to find themselves in an open field of tall yellow grass. The team works together to contact fellow Airmen piloting C-130Js in the area in hopes to be found from the sky. Survival, Evasion, Rescue, and Escape specialists conducted training with 37th Airlift Squadron and Romanian air force pilots during Carpathian Summer 2018, a bilateral training exercise designed to enhance interoperability and readiness of forces by conducting combined air operations with the Romanian air force. “Our purpose today is to work interoperable training with the Romanian rescue forces,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Canoy, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa SERE functional manager. “We put survivors on the ground, they communicate with their wingmen, and then they pass the information to the Romanians to get rescued.” As the pilots rummage through their gear, they pull out a three-inch by five-inch mirror and a radio. As a face-painted pilot dials in a frequency to make communications, another takes the mirror and makes her way out to the field, the only spot within a two kilometer radius beaming with sunlight. The sweat beads up on their faces as they listen to the SERE experts provide instruction. “When they fly over us, you’re going to want to aim that mirror right at their cockpit,” said Canoy. In the distance, the faint sound of propellers ripping away at the sky faded in and out. “They’re getting close, but they keep flying away from us,” said one pilot to another. The pilots then made contact with their wingmen overhead using the radio and gave them a heading. Roaring engines echoed through the trees as the aircraft approached their location. The C-130J soared over them as they aimed the beam of light reflected off the mirror into their windows, hoping to be spotted. After a few passes, the pilots overhead confirmed visuals with the crew on the ground and gave them a set of coordinates to proceed to next. After traversing another two-kilometer thicket, the pilots reached a rendezvous point where they called in Romanian helicopter pilots for their rescue. “The helicopter doesn’t have a visual of their location,” said Staff Sgt. Christian Martin, 86th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist. “They know roughly where they’re at and they’re doing a search pattern to identify where our isolated personnel are, but by using vectoring techniques, the aircrew are able to take the sound that they hear from the helicopter, use a heading to get them a visual of the helicopter, and then guide them in using left and right turns.” Minutes pass and just above the treeline, a helicopter rises like the sun. “We have a visual,” relayed the downed pilots to the Romanian helicopters. “Turn 90 degrees to your right.” Each aircrew member took turns giving the helicopter pilots directions to their exact location. The choppers then landed, and the crew was saved. U.S. Air Force Capt. Jane Marlow, 37th AS pilot, said the training was incredibly valuable. “It provided an awesome refresher on survival and evasion, while allowing us to do some things like helicopter vectoring and fixed wing rescue that simply aren’t available at Ramstein,” she said. Marlow spoke on the importance of the training and how it essential for aircrew members. “For those of us on the ground, the lessons learned in SERE may be the thing that saves your crew one day, should the worst ever happen,” said Marlow. “For the C-130J’s in the exercise, it gave the crews the opportunity to train as on-scene commanders. The OSC role is absolutely vital to the rescue missions the 37th may be called upon to execute. The chance to run the scenario and train with an actual isolated person on the ground was awesome. The realism it brought to the search, coordination, and rescue portion of the training allowed the crews to really understand some of the challenges they would face in a true personnel recovery scenario.” The multinational rescue operation improved cohesion between allied forces, according to Marlow, which is necessary due to the possibility of real-life situations as reflected in the training. “Working search and rescue with the Romanians was an incredible opportunity,” she added. “It provided us the opportunity to simulate a realistic multinational rescue operation. In a true personnel recovery scenario, one of our allies may be the first to respond to a distress call. Sharing tactics, techniques, and procedures in exercises like this provides the opportunity to ensure we and our allies are primed to respond quickly and effectively when rescue is needed.” BOLOVANI, ROMANIA 08.27.2018 Photo by Senior Airman Devin Boyer  86th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs  […]

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Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman, Remembered at Camp Cunningham

MoH Recipient John Chapman, Remembered at Camp Cunningham

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Personnel from Bagram Airfield and the Special Operations community gathered at the Memorial Courtyard at Camp Cunningham to recognize Medal of Honor recipient, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman. During the Medal of Honor commemoration ceremony, Airman from the 26th Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron (ESTS) remembered the courage and valor Chapman displayed high on a mountaintop in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan, approximately 130 miles from Bagram Airfield. “He died on that mountain top, not in vain but while rescuing a teammate and protecting a helicopter full of men he had never met,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chaz, a special tactics airman deployed to Bagram. “John Chapman died as he said in high school, ‘putting others ahead of himself,’ and was a living and breathing example of the Special Tactics motto, ‘First There….That Others May Live’.” For his heroic actions during the Battle of Takur Ghar, Chapman was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross on January 10, 2003, and last Wednesday, President Trump presented the Medal of Honor to Chapman’s widow, Valerie Nessel, in a White House ceremony. “Master Sgt. Chapman’s actions on Takur Ghar Mountain were extraordinary,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Buck Elton, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan and NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan commanding general. “Advances in technology and years of hard work by many Special Tactics Airmen have allowed us to more fully understand the brutal battle. We can now see how Chappy bravely attacked al-Qaeda, continued to fight after being wounded and ultimately died protecting his teammates.” Chapman, who “distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism” is the first Special Tactics Airman to be awarded the Medal of Honor and the first Airman since the Vietnam War to receive the nation’s highest award for valor. “His courage, skill and willingness to give his life so that others may live have long-earned the deep respect of joint special operations forces,” said Elton. “We are grateful and proud President Trump awarded him the Medal of Honor and presented it to his wife and daughters.” With a backdrop of a mural painted to forever immortalize Chapman’s legacy, the ceremony concluded with the 26th Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron leading the crowd in memorial push-ups as they paid tribute to a fallen warrior, an Airman and an American Hero. Established in 2009, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan is a U.S.-led mission that directs and enables U.S. military operations in support of Resolute Support, NATO’s train, advise and assist mission. Its purpose is to sustain campaign momentum in Afghanistan. It is also tasked with executing responsibilities and oversight for manpower, material and logistics, basing and operational movement in the country, supporting a responsible economic transition that encourages a resilient Afghan economy. BAGRAM AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN 08.29.2018 Story by Capt. Chelsi Johnson  455th Air Expeditionary Wing   //ENDS// This story is embedded from DVIDS

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