SERE ensures aircrew members return home

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Montse Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
When a prisoner of war returns home or an aircrew member is rescued after evading enemy forces, survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist can rest assured he did a job well done by providing that member with the training require to survive.

This Air Force Global Strike Command base has two SERE specialists in charge of providing aircrew members the necessary information they need to survive, evade, resist or escape if they were to end up isolated anywhere in the world; especially behind enemy lines.

SERE specialists like Staff Sgt. Michael Garcia, 509th Operation Support Squadron, live with the SERE creed on their mind, ensuring his job is performed to the best of his ability.

My job is to ensure every aircrew Airman has the skills to survive in an austere environment should the situation arise.

One of the responsibilities of SERE specialists is to provide in-class information to aircrew members of the 509th Bomb Wing, 442nd Fighter Wing and the 131st Bomb Wing to be certified to fly.

When Sergeant Garcia and the other SERE specialist, Senior Airman Estiven Gonzalez, 509th OSS, aren't in the classroom teaching aircrew members how to survive and evade capture, they are out in the field performing hands-on training.

"We provide Code of Conduct Continuation training to all 509th Bomb Wing aircrew," Sergeant Garcia said. "We conduct combat survival training water survival training, emergency parachute training and conduct after capture training."

Combat Survival Training

Combat survival training provides the skills necessary to survive in any environment in the world while evading the enemy and attempting to expedite a self recovery over a survival radio with recovery assets thousands of miles away.

"During the course, aircrew members are tested on their ability to build shelter, fire and signals, identifying food sources and procure drinking water from natural sources," Sergeant Garcia said. "They are also evaluated on their ability to read a map and use a compass for navigation, all while evading an angry mob of aggressors."

Water Survival Training

Water survival training teaches the aircrew how to survive in the ocean.

"We teach our aircrew how to maintain a 98.6 temperature and get recovered as fast as possible," Sergeant Garcia said. "Imagine the most unruly desert in the world and multiply its size and brutality by 60,000 and you get the oceans of the world and all they have is a 7-foot life raft; desalinate pump and some small signaling devices."

Conduct After Capture

The conduct after capture training encompasses and instills the skills necessary to use all six articles of the Code of Conduct. The skills taught during the resistance and escape training are the only tools available to aircrew during captivity.

"Take Sen. John McCain for example, he was detained by the North Vietnamese for five-and-half years," Sergeant Garcia said. "He suffered two broken arms and a broken right knee. When we teach resistance, we don't just mean resist giving valuable information, we mean to not give into the interrogations, the torture, the starvation and diseases that POW's endure."

These four days of training are crucial to someday save at least one life.

Sergeant Garcia said training aircrew in the skills necessary to avoid even the smallest fragment of captivity is worth every grueling hour, every interrogation, frozen river crossing, failed rescue attempt and endless nights spent in the wilderness, hoping recovery comes tomorrow.

"It's all worth it if I can pass on just one bit of information to help someone in a survival situation, or captivity," Sergeant Garcia said. "It's what we do, so they may return with honor."