908th Operations Group Dives Head First into SERE Training
By Senior Airman Shelby Thurman, 908th Airlift Wing
/ Published February 22, 2021
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
Members of the 908th Operations Group have been conducting Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, during the last few Unit Training Assemblies.
The training was mandatory for those that are aircrew, but was also in preparation for an upcoming deployment.
Before the crews could be tested in the field, they had to take some time to review equipment and procedures in the classroom.
Retaining information can be tough if the topic seems repetitive for seasoned SERE veterans like Maj. Christopher Card, 908th Operations Support Squadron pilot, who has taken the course at least seven times already.
“It’s the four or five hours of academics that can be pretty difficult to keep people focused,” said Card. “But the instructors made it obvious that they cared and it helped us stay engaged and focused.”
Another member that agreed with Card was Tech. Sgt. Kyle Nagamatsu, 357th Airlift Squadron loadmaster.
“The instructors were really knowledgeable and their personalities made absorbing the information a lot easier,” said Nagamatsu.
Once the classroom portion was completed it was time to put their knowledge to the test in an outdoor simulation.
Unlike some SERE training where a swimming pool is used for the water portion, members were instead subjected to the unforgiving Alabama River.
“I thought this training was more beneficial because we were in a river instead of a swimming pool,” said Captain Micah Hughens, 908th OSS navigator. “It simulated more of a real-world environment.”
Also atypical, was that the groups were comprised of the same style of crew that is required to operate a C-130 Hercules.
The teams were dropped off in random locations and tasked with surviving until summoned via c-cell radio to their extraction point on the banks of the Alabama River. The crews hid in the brush until it was time for the extraction. They were approached for pickup by their instructor in a F470 Combat Rubber Raiding Craft, also called a “Zodiac.” Once in the Zodiac, they were taken to a safety point and swam to their final destination.
“The current was pretty strong so you just had to give it your best,” said Nagamatsu.
This exercise was also important to simulate what would happen in the event of equipment failure. For example, all of the Zodiac’s life-preservers were equipped with carbon dioxide cartridges to automatically inflate them; but that does not mean they always worked.
“My life preserver didn’t work so I had to manually inflate mine,” said Hughens. “It was good that happened though because it could actually happen in the real world.”
The members said they were thankful for the instructors’ thorough briefings on the equipment and procedures beforehand because it made them feel like they could better trust themselves and their teammates in the event of an emergency.
“I feel more prepared for real-world emergencies after having gone through this training,” said Nagamatsu. “I hope to never use it, but I know I can trust my training if needed.”
Since the 908th Airlift Wing’s mission is specific to the C-130 Hercules, it was important to practice with C-130 related equipment. Multiple members of the 908th OG said they were thankful for the academic review and the field simulation because they feel better prepared for future deployments or other emergencies.
“Being told how to use something is completely different than when you’re out in the real world with the tools in hand,” said Nagamatsu. “This definitely helped me feel more prepared for our upcoming deployment.”
The 908th AW’s ability to provide combat capability anytime and anywhere is why its members are proud to be Alabama’s only Air Force Reserve wing.