MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
Mountain Home Air Force Base conducted aircrew combat survival training during the Gunfighter Flag exercise in March 2019.
Staff Sgt. Brian Chorpenning, 366th Fighter Wing Survival Evasion Resistance Escape specialist, 366th Security Forces Squadron and aircrew from the 389th Fighter Squadron engaged in a combat survival training that had participants simulate making contact with rescue personnel while behind enemy lines.
Combat Search and Rescue was also involved in the training to help simulate recovery of downed air crew.
“We have over 13 aircraft in five different platforms, all with the goal of recovering the isolated persons," Chorpenning said.
The K-9 units from the 366th SFS served as the seeking element of the training, using their dogs to search for the pilots as they attempted to make contact with recovery personnel.
The pilot’s goal is to make contact with Combat Search and Rescue personnel and use communication and coordination in order to get rescued.
This training was designed to present a realistic situation in a challenging and stressful environment to aircrew to better prepare them for these types of predicaments.
“You have to make it stressful” Chorpenning said. "If you make it stressful they’re going to remember it better. Giving them that realism is important."
SERE and CSAR conduct this type of training during Gunfighter Flag in order to keep aircrew trained for situations in which they may find themselves in need of rescue.
"The IP is the most unpredictable part of a CSAR mission," Chorpenning said. "He's out of his element, he's hiding from the enemy, he’s cold, tired and hungry. So, training them is very important to the goal of being recovered."
It is one of the few times throughout the year that this many elements of a combat search and rescue situation are brought together for training.
Gunfighter Flag is one of the most effective times to train our aircrew in recovery communication and evasion techniques.
"I think the realism is important," said 1st Lt. James Scotto, 389th Fighter Squadron weapon systems officer. "If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need rescue, you're able snap right into your training.
Realism is not only important when creating effective training, it is also a way to make sure the aircrew remember their training in a stressful situation through an event called stress inoculation.
Stress inoculation is a method of introducing stress in a controlled way in order to increase psychological resilience.
"It's about finding a way to simulate the environment in a real way," Chorpenning said. "It's because of the stress that the memory is imprinted in your mind. We simulate these events as real as possible so if they a thing like this happens to them they are able to react under the stress because it's been engrained in their memory."
During the training pilots are met with harsh weather, challenging terrain, little supplies to work with and are equipped with just as much as they could fit in a small bag such as a bottle of water, and a radio
The goal is to train the plots in a way where they can work effectively with the recovery personnel, and get out of enemy territory.
This training and use of resources is highly effective, and aircrew across the Air Force are trained this way in order to ensure that through communication and coordination, aircrew members are able to continue the fight and return safely.
“We need to be good at it,” Chorpenning said. "America is the best in the world because we train in this way."