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Sink 'r Swim: SERE instructors dive head first into training

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tom Brading
  • 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Their job is teach service members how to survive during worst-case scenarios so they can return home to their loved ones.

Survival, Escape, Resistance and Evasion specialists equip aircrew members on how to do exactly that: survive, escape, resist and evade. And, learning those skills could make all the difference in a real world scenario. 

Every aircrew member from every U.S. military branch is certified in basic water survival training.

This was the case for Airmen from the 300th Airlift Squadron; they were participants of a basic water survival refresher and combat survival courses from SERE instructors June 27, 2015, while deployed to Naval Air Base Key West, Fla. 

For Staff Sgt. Austin Aluise, 315th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist, equipping the 300th AS with the skills they need to survive is business as usual.
"We took the crew out on the coast and ran them through a scenario of if they were to land in the ocean, and how they'd survive," said Aluise, a native of North Dakota. 

Due to the number of Charleston air crew members, Aluise contacted an old wingman to aid in maintaining a proper student-to-instructor ratio. 

Senior Airman Phillip DeFraties, 125th Fighter Wing SERE specialist, answered the call and also conducted training. For the instructors, it was a reunion because they went through basic training and active duty together before transitioning as Citizen Airmen.

"If the 300 AS find themselves in an open ocean environment, from landing into the ocean safely and getting out of their parachute canopy properly, they're ready," said DeFraties, a native of Illinois.
Once landing techniques were complete, training transitioned to how to properly inflate their life preserver, linking up with other members of the air crew, and how to get into the raft. 

DeFraties added, "When it comes to water survival, we covered everything."

"Training aircrew members at this level adds a sense of confidence to them, as well as their families in knowing their loved ones are prepared," said Aluise. "The Airmen of the 300th AS did an excellent job with their training."
To ensure all Airmen received proper training, the group was split into two training sessions.

"Splitting the groups enable the best outcome for training," said DeFraties. "Being a Reservist, we understand their time is precious, so when trips like this are scheduled we like to train as many people as we can and we get them proficient in their skill sets." 

The SERE program was established by the U.S. Air Force after the Korean War, and was extended to other branches during the Vietnam War. In addition to teaching military service members the techniques for survival, they also teach military code of conduct. 

The code is an ethical guide and Department of Defense directive consisting of six articles for service members and it addresses how they should act in combat.
After more than a year of training, and then additional months to certify their training, the instructors are ready to train others.

However, according to Aluise, they're a program that some are unaware of.

"The SERE program is out there to help as a resource for anyone deploying," said Aluise. 

 Aluise does the job simply for the joy of helping others.
"My favorite part of the job is training others," said Aluise. "Combat survival, navigation and teaching people primitive skills they didn't know before like using just a compass to find their way to a designated location is very rewarding."