CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti —In the desert and off the waters of East Africa, service members never know what types of situations they will encounter.
U.S. Air Force survival, evasion, resistance, escape, (SERE) specialist U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Schmitz gave firsthand working knowledge of how to survive missions and combat to airmen with the 303rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron during desert and water survival training on the Djiboutian coastline, Dec. 6, 2013.
The training ensures the 303rd ERQS pilots and crew members maintain their mission-ready status and enhance specifically their capabilities to provide personnel recovery efforts across the Horn of Africa.
“The purpose of today’s training was to refresh skills through hands-on practical application allowing them the opportunity to train in a realistic environment they are not familiar with,” Schmitz said. “Although they have had the initial training, without practice, it’s hard to recall what you have learned.”
Through an HH-60G Pave Hawk crash survivor scenario, airmen improved their skills and combat efficiency through testing navigation techniques, procuring food, water, ground to air signals, and shelter, and preparing for recovery operations in desert and coastal environments.
“As an intel analyst for the aircrew, I’ve never had this type of training. In this little bit of time, I have learned so much” said Senior Airman Charles Brock of the 303rd ERQS.
This training was particularly important because it gives the 303rd ERQS the opportunity to go out and get hands-on training in and environment they are not familiar with.
“The Horn of Africa is such a big area of responsibility and the possibility exists that we can find ourselves isolated for an extended period of time,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Nathan Franklin, a 303rd ERQS pilot.
At the end of the day, Schmitz looked to see if they’ve retained some of the skills they’ve learned.
“I’m trying to make sure they can execute what skills they already have and that they’re building upon those skills to survive if the unexpected occurs,” he said.
Training such as this ensures military members assigned to CJTF-HOA are prepared at a moment’s notice to respond and provide personnel recovery and search and rescue support throughout the East Africa area of responsibility and return with honor.
“This opportunity was an invaluable refresher of skills we hope we never have to use; but in the case we do, we have the skills to potentially save a life,” Franklin said.