Learning to survive — and escape

SERE specialists give tips on staying alive


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Air Force Staff Sgt. Greg Avey sets off a red-smoke signal after starting a fire using snow-covered branches and twigs from the surrounding trees during his Survive and Evade class on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson Jan. 26.

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett

There are only approximately 400 Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists in the Air Force, and two of them reside at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Greg Avey and Tech. Sgt. Reid Beveridge are SERE specialists and belong to JBER’s 3rd Operations Support Squadron’s Weapons and Tactics Flight.

They are responsible for ensuring all pilots and aircrew receive their required training for combat survival, water survival, emergency parachuting and conduct after capture.

“In the event there is an aircraft malfunction over enemy territory, if it’s possible, they’ll return to home base, or the other option is to ditch over water due to the capabilities of the Navy,” Avey said. “Sometimes the situation doesn’t allow either of those and they crash in the enemy’s back yard.”

All pilots have to rely on is the equipment in their aircraft, he said.

This particular survival course is required every three years for Airmen assigned to the 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron.

When these specific Airmen initially went through this course, it was 17 days long. They spent a week in the woods learning different survival and evasion techniques.

When they attend the refresher course, training consists of a day in the classroom and in the woods and another day of water survival training which is also required every three years.

During the morning hours the crew was instructed on how to survive and evade if they were to become isolated in a combat situation. They were also briefed on pre-deployment preparations and preparation for a long-term evasion.

Later on that morning they learned the basics of personnel recovery and emergency planning. The refresher class also covered the basics of land navigation using a map, compass and Global Positioning System.

By noon the class was out in the wilderness where they had to use snow-covered tree branches, pieces of bark and twigs to make a fire. They also applied their knowledge to practice concealing themselves individually and in groups, and used their navigational equipment and skills to find their way to their rescue point.

“It’s very important training; the survivor is always going to be the weakest link an evasion scenario,” said Air Force Maj. Danny Lewis, 962nd AACS. “It’s important to be familiar with technology that we don’t use on a daily basis.”

The training Avey provides could be the difference between being rescued and captured.

“Now your mission is to survive, evade, resist and escape,” Avey said. “This refresher training takes lesson learned from people going through current operations and applies that new information.”

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