SERE-iously prepared for every situation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tiffany Del Oso
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Imagine yourself on one of Florida’s white sandy beaches. Perhaps the thoughts running through your head are something like, “this is a tropical paradise,” or ‘spring break, baby!” In a rather dramatic turn of events, you end up stranded; within an hour, the heat index has risen to 104 F, you’re sweating profusely with little to no shade and because this in fact is not spring break, you forgot your water bottle and sunscreen.

Luckily, you participated in a raft building exercise with the 325th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape team recently and mainland is just across the bay. You’re fully prepared, despite the unexpected circumstances, with the knowledge to build a raft utilizing your environment’s available materials.

“SERE is typically the last thing on planners’ minds, but we’re the first people they seek out when things go wrong,” said Staff Sgt. Lee Sims, 325th OSS SERE training supervisor. “It’s my job to advocate for the isolated person to make sure they are taken care of.”

The two-man SERE operation is new to Tyndall, but not unfamiliar to operational fighter wings across the Air Force. As the “Installation of the Future” continues to evolve into a fully combat-capable F-35A Lightning II fighter wing, supporting operations are navigating a new environment as they figure out how to effectively support the overall mission.

“Our job here at Tyndall is to apply our support capabilities to the F-35 platform,” said Sims. “We do this by fulfilling the preparation and planning portions to the personal recovery enterprise, for example, SERE Refresher Training and exercise development for deployment preparation.”

Currently, The SERE team conducts local area survival courses with plans to add water survival training and emergency parachuting courses. For the growing fighter squadrons to become fully combat mission ready, they will be required to take combat survival training and conduct after capture courses, which Sims explained, are expected to begin in the near future.

“We are also committed to the future of multi-capable Airmen,” said Sims. “We’re currently advising [leadership] on how our courses might be conducted, and if we have any bandwidth left over, we are more than happy to accommodate other career fields interested in SERE training.”

Airmen across the installation may be invited to participate in navigation courses or self-defense classes. The SERE team recently offered a raft building exercise for visiting Air Force Academy cadets and local interested Airmen.

“Given that I’m an intel analyst it seemed like a good idea to get perspective on some of the training pilots experience,” said Airman Kamron McCray, 325th OSS intelligence analyst and exercise participant. “Understanding SERE can help me tailor a pre-mission brief to provide pilots and aircrew an idea of what available resources the environment they’ll be flying in may hold, if they are shot down or must evacuate their [aircraft].”

The raft building exercise not only challenged Airmen to work as a team and utilize their environment but also encouraged healthy competition.

“We took specific steps to allow the cadets to not only work with enlisted personnel, but to work on a small team,” explained Sims. “The end product resulted in a teamwork/leadership activity that truly embodied the spirit of SERE and produced good conversation between the enlisted members and the soon-to-be leaders from the academy.”

While SERE is often overlooked, it is an essential skillset to every military member, in the off chance they are isolated from their team or captured by an adversary. SERE instructors are charged with preparing Airmen to survive the potential rigors and horrors of being a POW.

“Every person I speak to, every pilot and student that sits in my class, I alone hold the responsibility of preparing them for the worst day of their life in hopes that they would return to us with honor,” stated Sims.