SERE Keeps Aircrew On Their Toes
Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) specialists are the Air Force’s foremost experts on surviving in the hostile and austere environments around the world.
At Royal Air Force Mildenhall, SERE specialists train aircrew year round on survival tactics and procedures to use should they be forced to abandon their aircraft.
“We specialize in personnel recovery tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Mitchell, 100th Operations Support Squadron NCO in-charge of SERE operations. “We ensure our aircrew have the skills and knowledge necessary to make it back from an isolated incident should they find themselves separated from their team.”
SERE specialists are charged with sharing and teaching their knowledge with other members of the Air Force.
“Our job is to know the ins and outs of each aircraft, in order to provide the best possible training,” Mitchell explained. “Knowing our customers is vital. We need to understand their roles and responsibilities, where their survival equipment is located on the aircraft and teach them how to use it.”
In order to make evasion training more realistic, SERE specialists often enlist the help of volunteers to act as the opposing force.
“The opposing force volunteers, or OPFOR, definitely enhance training,” Mitchell said. “When the evading aircrew members know there are people searching for them, it makes it a lot more realistic and students are forced to apply their skills to avoid being captured.”
This training extends an opportunity for other units, such as the 100th Security Forces Squadron military working dog section, to enhance their own skill sets.
“Military working dogs are extremely valuable detection tools. With 300 million olfactory receptacles, they can smell and hunt down whatever they are trained to find,” said Tech. Sgt. Melissa Burns, 100th SFS MWD kennel master. “It’s important to train the dogs in a plethora of different scenarios. Working with SERE both sharpens the dogs skills and builds trust between military members who may work together in the future.”
Aircrew have requirements for staying current with their flying skills, and have similar requirements with regard to their SERE competency.
“This is combat refresher training; it's not their first time seeing any of this,” Mitchell said. “They go through an initial field training course at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. This training provides them with an opportunity to refresh some of the skills they may have forgotten.”