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SERE: Survival Class Prepares Troops

Senior Airman Kevin Wilson, 116th Operations Support Squadron Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape instructor, demonstrates proper operating techniques of the PRC -112 survivor radio to an Aircrew member. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Paul R. Ross)

Senior Airman Kevin Wilson, 116th Operations Support Squadron Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape instructor, demonstrates proper operating techniques of the PRC -112 survivor radio to an Aircrew member. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Paul R. Ross)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga -- Walking through the backwoods of Robins Air Force Base, a masked man is looking for survivors of a crashed Joint STARS aircraft that he can take captive. 

The masked man is Tech. Sgt. Greg M. Turner, 116th Operations Support Squadron, Survive, Evade, Resist Escape specialist. 

The survivors are 19 aircrew members learning how to evade, resist and escape in the event that they survive a crash behind enemy lines. 

Sergeant Turner and Senior Airman Kevin J. Wilson conduct survival training twice a month, ten months a year, to the more than 800 air crew members in the 116th Air Control Wing. 

"We do not have training during July and August due to the heat, lightening and critters for safety reasons," said Sgt. Turner. "We make the training as realistic as possible, but safety is important." 

Continuation training is required every three years after completion of the 17 day survival course that all aircrew members go through at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. 

The one day continuation training starts with academics and finishes with a simulated rescue at a designated rescue point. 

Training begins with the aircrew members learning how to act, if they are captured, according to the code of conduct, Sgt. Turner said. 

After the resist and escape training, the class moves on to combat survival, focusing on five basic elements; personal protection, sustenance, travel, survival of medical problems, and evasion and personal recovery. 

After all of the academics the class heads out to put their skills to the test. 

When they arrive at the play area the aircrew members go over how to read grid maps and set way points on Global Positioning System devices. 

Airman Wilson then gives students coordinates to the first checkpoint and sends them off in groups of four or five. 

The first leg of the course is a non-evasive walk for the teams so they can get familiar with using the radios and finding their way with the equipment. 

The crews will use their radios for voice communication and I will use mine as the rescue radio using alpha numeric data bursts with the, said Airman Wilson. 

For the second leg the teams make way through the woods while evading Tech. Sgt. Turner and his team of bad guys. 

"We'll dress up out of uniform and try to catch them," Sergeant Turner said. 

"The idea is not to catch them," Tech. Sgt. Turner said. "We want them to practice their evasion and navigation and we'll primarily be walking the roads making noise. 

The last part of the training is the rescue part. When they get to a rescue point given to them by Airman Wilson they use their infrared devices to signal where they are. 

Airman Wilson will be able to see the signal using night vision goggles. 

"We only have one set of night vision goggles right now," Airman Wilson said. "But we'll be using them to identify them using their signaling devices." 

The goal is to give the aircrew members the required training while trying to keep it from being boring and remedial. 

"We try to have fun with them, but at the same time give them the most realistic hands-on training with the equipment they would have in the real world," Sergeant Turner said. 

The training is not only beneficial in that the crew will know how to survive, but it might
motivate them to work harder to rescue others in the situation. 

"If our guys know how it feels to be that person on the ground sweating and scared then they're going to do a better job in the air to get them back," Tech. Sgt. Turner said.