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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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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Airmen splash into survival training

LOWESTOFT, SFK, UNITED KINGDOM 05.11.2018 Story by Staff Sgt. Alex Echols  48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs   Non-aircrew personnel assigned to the 48th Fighter Wing conquered the survival, evasion, resistance and escape Water Survival Course at East Coast College, May 4, 2018. Through tumultuous wind and rain on a simulated sea, 18 Airmen pulled together to survive a realistic aircraft crash training scenario. The training, typically reserved for aircrew, provided the Airmen a glimpse into scenarios flight personnel must be able to navigate to ensure survival. “We all play our part to support the warfighter,” said Tech. Sgt. Derek Owens, 48th Operations Support Squadron SERE NCO in-charge. “Today Airmen across the wing had an opportunity to experience a portion on how 48th Operations Group provides some of that support by receiving the same water survival training that SERE provides our aircrew.” During the height of the course, the trainees faced the “perfect storm” scenario where their life rafts faced simulated 30-knot roaring winds, overwhelming rain, and four- to six-foot waves in pitch-black conditions. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it was awesome,” said Staff Sgt. Gaebriel Diaz, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance technician. “I recommend everyone experience it at least once. It can even help you in day-to-day situations like if your commercial plane goes down. This training could help you survive.” The participants also learned how to escape being trapped under a canopy, release their harness while being dragged by the wind, mount their one- and 20-man life rafts, and use several different types of survival gear. “We are just trying to teach them different tactics, techniques and procedures that we teach to our aircrew to plan for the worst case scenario,” said Staff Sgt. Derreck Day, 48th OSS SERE specialist. “If for some reason aircrew have to punch out and are exposed to this type of environment, then they need to be able to survive if not thrive and return with honor.” To maintain their certification, aircrew must pass Water Survival Training every three years. The SERE technicians host the course 12 times a year and are hoping to hold classes for non-aircrew members two or three times a year, according to Day.  //ENDS// Article extracted from DVIDS. For more battlefield airmen stories such as this, click HERE.

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AFRL enhances survival tools for isolated Airmen

(EDITORS NOTE: Stop for a second, look & read the picture w/ caption.  That is HILARIOUS.) WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OH, UNITED STATES 04.13.2018 Story by Donna Lindner  Air Force Research Laboratory – Survival — it’s the first thing an ejected pilot contemplates once safely on the ground. A survival situation could span days and the Air Force is taking advantage of advancements in technology to allow ejected pilots to survive for longer periods of time. Researchers from the Junior Force Warfighters Operations in the Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, are increasing a pilot’s capability to survive, escape and evade through near-term, short-turnaround projects. “We are developing materials that will last longer in operational environments so that isolated personnel have the equipment readily available,” said Capt. Jason Goins, JFWORX team member. A subteam of JFWORX, the Ejection Seat Survival Kit Enhancement, Modernization and Optimization team, are working to improve the current ejection seat survival kit for the Air Force. The kit contains over 50 items, broken down into subprojects, with the first project being the survival knife for improved survive, escape, resist, and evade operations. JFWORX is evaluating different types of steels, varying edge grinds and blade shapes for the new knife. The team performed field tests with various commercially available knives. The blades are tested to see how quickly they dull with an edge retention test. A knife made of harder steel will hold an edge well, but is difficult to sharpen and is likewise brittle. Based on the initial JFWORX technical evaluation, the team selected 60 knives for end user testing by the 22nd Training Squadron and 336th Training Group at Fairchild AFB, Washington. A concurrence on the best knife will be determined and then recommended to the Air Force for inclusion in the survival kit. The 336th Training Group is the Air Force’s sole unit responsible for SERE specialists and train more than 6,000 students from Fairchild AFB, alone. “SERE specialists are trained to survive anywhere in the world and are the best trained personnel recovery subject matters experts,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Torres of the 22TRS and 336TRG. “The foundation of everything we do is the ability to relate information that is known or discovered to provide the best possible life-preserving equipment to the future isolated person should they require it.” According to Torres, the JFWORX team is invaluable to improving this SERE equipment. “Getting the opportunity to try out new knives gave me more insight on what would be more practical and useful for a downed pilot. I am excited to see an improvement on kits that have not changed through the ages,” said Senior Airman Kyle Alvarez of the 22TRS and 336TRG. A modernized survival kit enables the warfighter to survive with updated tools. Sharp knives for food, water for drinking and medical bags for first-aid are just three of the improvements currently being worked for the kit. “The overall goal of JFWORX is to provide personnel with the opportunity to rapidly identify and develop solutions to time-critical operational needs,” said Capt. Goins. “Emphasis is placed on increasing our customer-centric focus and forming partnerships with other operational units.” JFWORX projects are managed entirely by its members, who are military and civilian employees of the lab. Their projects are designed with the warfighter in mind. J.D. Bales, a mechanical engineer in the AFRL, is one of the newer members on the team. “I was excited to work on a team where my ideas and insights were heard,” said Bales. “Brainstorming on projects with many viewpoints is always good.” Supplying Airmen with advanced state-of-the-art survival kits is just one of the many projects the team works continuously.   For more stories like these, click HERE

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