News: SERE specialists keep aircrew water survival skills fresh
Story by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth
HONOLULU - Aircrews in any theater of operations need to prepare for all possible emergency situations, and this is especially true for U.S. military personnel operating in U.S. Pacific Air Forces. Every mission in the area of responsibility requires travel over long distances, which increases the importance for aircrews to keep current on survival, evasion, resistance and escape tactics and procedures.
“All the flights they do around here are going over some type of water,” U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Ray, 15th Operations Support Squadron survival evasion resistance and escape specialist said. “If they need to use this training, it is pretty important to them, and to us, to make sure they are ready.”
Staff Sgt. Ray and U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sergio Avalos provide water survival refresher training to more than 90 aircrew members a year. They are the only Air Force SERE specialists on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam responsible for training aircrew.
During the training the instructors emphasis the Five A's: air for the raft, assist others, throw out the anchor, pull in the accessory kit and then analyze the situation.
“The moment they bail out of the aircraft is when their SERE mind frame needs to take over,” Avalos said. “They need to know how to disentangle from the canopy, how to release from their harnesses if they are getting dragged and, most importantly, get into a life raft. The Five A’s will help them survive.”
Aircrews learn water survival training during their initial SERE training and are required to complete refresher training every 36 months. According to the pilots who go through the refresher training, it is invaluable to their peace of mind.
“It’s necessary to use the actual equipment out in the water environment,” U.S. Air Force Capt. Chris Martin, 535th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot said. “With this training I feel more confident that my crew and I can survive if we need to leave the aircraft.”
The SERE specialist of the 15th OSS said that even if you aren’t aircrew and you find yourself in a survival situation on the water, your best defense is being prepared.
“Having an emergency kit with you and knowing your limits will help keep people from getting into extreme survival situations” Avalos said. “It’s easy for everyone to get a little complacent living in Hawaii, but being prepared, mentally and physically, can be the difference when it comes to surviving on the water.”