SERE: Teaching How to Survive
By Airman Antwain Hanks, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 15, 2019
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho - -- Being an aircrew member in the armed forces isn't just flying a plane, helicopter or a jet. It's putting your own personal safety on the line to protect people from threats known and unknown.
Lastly, it’s being brave enough to answer a call that most don't.
From as early as 1909, when the Wright brothers sold the Wright military flyer to the U.S. Army Signal Corps, aircraft and aircrew have been a vital part to the success of military operations.
The armed forces puts a great emphasis on ensuring these pilots are safe and have the knowledge and skills to make it home safe in any situation they might endure.
This responsibility heavily lies on the shoulders of the United States Air Force’s survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) specialist, whose main job is to train aircrew and other military personnel how to survive in a variety of environments and conditions.
“I joined the Air Force and spent my first three years as an F-15 crew chief,” said Tech Sgt. Timothy Emkey, 366th Fighter Wing SERE specialist. “I cross-trained to because I wanted to do something more challenging and outside of the norm.”
SERE specialists teach multiple courses and hold yearly and monthly refreshers with other military personnel to ensure they know what’s required to survive in a deployed environment and to better their knowledge and skills on what to do if they have to bail out.
One of these trainings is combat skills training (CST). CST helps instill the necessary skills and knowledge needed to survive in a situation where the aircrew must bailout from the aircraft behind enemy lines.
The training starts with an hour-long classroom session before aircrew are taken out to Saylor Creek Bombing Range.
Then the aircrew are taught how to use everything from flares, radios and other equipment to properly and effectively invade the enemy and return to safety.
Aircrew are then given certain points to reach via global positioning system before they contact friendly forces to extract them from the hostile area.
Aircrew throughout history such as Capt. Scott F. O’Grady who in 1995 was shot down and stranded in enemy territory for six days during the Bosnian War used these skills taught by SERE to return to safety.
“Knowing we provide training that could save someone’s life, but hope they never have to use it, is one of the most rewarding things in this job,” Emkey said.
Dedicated SERE specialists take lessons learned from situations all over the world, not just the military, and apply it to SERE’s skill set whether it be survival, evasion, resistance or escape.
The U.S. Air Force’s main missions are to take care of Airmen and enhance readiness. SERE accomplishes just that and will continue to with the ever changing environment these men and women might find themselves in.
“SERE is constantly adapting,” said Staff Sgt. David Chorpeninng, 366th FW SERE specialist. “We are continuously implementing new technology and tactics to increase survivability in the future.”