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SERE instructors teach survivor instinct

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt Grant Saylor
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
You're flying mission critical supplies to troops in the field behind enemy lines. Suddenly and without warning, your aircraft is rocked by a surface-to-air missile. The number two engine groans as oil pressure plummets and flames lick the cowling. The pilot radios a distress call and tells you and your fellow Airmen to ready for a possible emergency landing. Thoughts and fears race through your mind as you prepare to tackle the unknown.

"Where are we? How do we avoid capture by enemy combatants on the ground? How will we survive with no food in freezing temperatures if we're stuck here for days, weeks, months?" Through the chaos comes a moment of clarity as you recall the Survival Evasion Resistance Escape training you learned at home station. Now your thoughts have purpose and hope. "No matter what happens, my team and I can get through this," you think.

While it is unlikely you'll ever find yourself in this situation, the SERE instructors with the 446th Operations Support Flight make it their mission to prepare fellow Reservists for such a scenario.

"When you train someone who could potentially end up in harm's way, you're there to give them the confidence and ability to survive and return," said Tech Sgt. Ken MacArthur, 446th OSF SERE superintendent. "Without that training, there would certainly be more apprehension going into situations where you don't know exactly what to do."

Every three years, 446th Airlift Wing aircrew members are required to satisfy three components of SERE: water survival training, emergency parachute training, and combat survival training. Sergeant MacArthur and his colleague, Staff Sgt. Manuel Lamson, ensure these Reservists retain the skills that could potentially save their lives.

"This isn't complicated stuff," said Sergeant Lamson, who spent four years on active duty teaching SERE survival skills at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash. before joining the 446th AW last year. "But can you remember how to do it when you're injured or out of your comfort zone? That's what we want to get across."

Sergeant Lamson, an Air Force ROTC student at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., said the SERE training is a two-way street. Not only do Reserve aircrew members gain a better understanding of the latest survival gear and how to use it, but the instructors in turn also gain knowledge from the aircrews.

"It helps us learn too, because we get to find out what gear they're using when they deploy to the Area of Responsibility," said Sergeant Lamson, a native of Gridley, Calif. "This allows us to better tailor the training to suit their needs."

Sergeant MacArthur lives and breathes SERE. He was an active duty instructor at Fairchild AFB for 14 years before a break in service took him to the Middle East where he worked as a contractor teaching SERE to authorized foreign and U.S. military members and civilians. In 2006 he rejoined the Reserves and took the lead in developing a Reserve SERE training program for the 446th AW.

For those interested in a career in SERE, Sergeant MacArthur suggests checking out a popular website ( to find local recruiters and gain more insight.

Sergeant Lamson will be practicing another version of survival and evasion this fall, one that involves dodging 300-pound defensive ends. He was recently successful in his bid to become a walk-on running back for the WSU football team. His survival skills should come in handy.