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Training to survive

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andrew Schumann
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs

Aircrew from the 127th Wing sharpened their survival skills in October and prepared for any possibility that they, one day, may be forced to leave their aircraft in a hostile environment. 

Pilots from the 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, participated in survival, evasion, resistance, and escape refresher training during the 127th Wing’s October drill weekend. The training was broken into several modules, which focused on honing survival skills after leaving an aircraft in hostile enemy, and environmental conditions.

“SERE training is tailored toward high-risk of isolation personnel, training them to survive through conflict and contingency operations, allowing them to return home with honor,” said Tech. Sgt. Alex Ribbens, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape air advisor assigned to the 818th Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey, who was at Selfridge to provide the training.

Developed by the United States Army Air Force after World War II, SERE training focuses on the survivability of individuals who may become stranded in the wilderness or at sea, forced to evade the enemy or survive while in their captivity, and return home with honor.  The Air Force has since trained its aircrew members, pararescuemen, and other Battlefield Airmen in SERE skills to prepare its Airmen for the unthinkable.

Carried out over the course of two days, the refresher training spanned multiple SERE areas of focus, including conduct after capture, combat survival techniques, and water survival. The training satisfied both the 36-month requirement for pilots to train in combat survival and water survival, as well as the annual requirement of emergency parachute training. 

“The training we accomplished this weekend was geared toward refreshing the skills these pilots learned during their initial Code of Conduct training,” Ribbens continued, “as well as making sure the pilots are trained on the current tactics, techniques, procedures, and equipment.” 

During the first day of training, Selfridge pilots received closed-door instruction on conduct after capture before heading into the field for station training on aircrew flight equipment, tactics for surviving hostile environments, and evading the enemy.

Members of the 127th Operational Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment office facilitated training stations which allowed pilots to demonstrate tactics, such as proper landing posture following an ejection, and releasing from parachutes. 

“The importance of hands-on training is so that the pilots are able to operate all of their life saving equipment should they ever have to eject from the aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Jasmine Schaffer, lead aircrew flight equipment continuation trainer, 127th Operational Support Squadron. “This equipment is meant to save them, and if they are unfamiliar with it, it could have the opposite effect,” Schaffer said.  “A lack of familiarity with the equipment provided to them could cause injury to the member. It can also cause a delay in rescue of the member.”

The second day of training brought the Michigan pilots to a local high school swimming pool to practice survival techniques while in the water. Training stations were set up there to simulate water-born parachute dragging, escape from under the parachute canopy, and deploying emergency equipment, such as life rafts. The goal was to simulate a situation where a pilot lands in a body of water following an ejection from their aircraft. 

“We do this refresher training so that aircrews are capable and confident in their equipment and skills, should they have to eject or crash land,” Ribbens said. “The isolated person is typically the weakest link in the recovery chain, and by doing this training we make them stronger, and improve their survivability, as give them awareness of recovery procedures from the rescuer’s perspective.”

Training such as this enables the Airmen of the 127th Wing to be ready to mobilize around the globe at a moment’s notice, and maintain its tradition of being a premiere expeditionary force.