A group of three honorary commanders and their guests were given the opportunity to live out a day in the life of an Edwards aircrew member and undergo some Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape land and water survival training July 2 at the Oasis Aquatic Center.
The primary objective of the Honorary Commanders Program is to familiarize community leaders with Edwards’ operations by pairing them with unit commanders and directors at both social and official functions. This program is an avenue for community partner leaders to learn about the Air Force mission, personnel, programs and operations. Likewise, base commanders and personnel benefit from continued cooperation with the community and its key leaders.
“I think an important part of the Honorary Commanders Program is showing the folks from the local community who we are and what we do here at Edwards,” Col. Patrick Davis, Air Force Research Laboratory, Detachment 7 commander, who participated along with his AFRL honorary commander. “This experience today is certainly unique for them and gives them a unique insight into the active duty Air Force that their civilian counterparts downtown are normally not exposed to.”
To begin the day’s training, the honorary commanders and their guests were introduced to hands-on land survival training, which involved setting off smoke and flare canisters, with the help of Edwards SERE instructors.
“The hand’s-on land survival training was a lot of fun,” said Kelly Kennerknecht, Kaiser Permanente Public Affairs representative for the Antelope Valley and AFRL, Det 7 honorary commander. “I’ve never set off a flare before, but I learned that it’s something essential to know in the event of an emergency and it’s a little bit more complicated than I thought it would be, but overall it was a lot of fun.”
After the land survival training portion was completed, the team took to the pool for water survival orientation. While there, SERE instructors went over the proper body position when going through a parachute landing fall into the water. After that portion, Edwards students and honorary guests were instructed on how to board a one-man life raft and a large life raft.
“During this portion of the training, there’s so much to think about between all the equipment that’s on you and everything you have to do to ensure the safety of everyone. There were a lot of intricate parts to every part of the training,” said Kennerknecht. “You don’t really realize all the training and all the work that our Airmen need until you go through something like this, but it definitely puts things in perspective that this is a reasonable situation that they may encounter.”
In the end, each honorary commander and guest underwent the simulated parachute drag in water, which teaches aircrew how to release from their parachute harness.
“Overall, we were all really impressed with the professionalism of all the instructors and the amount of training our aircrews go through,” added Kennerknecht. “I was very fortunate to be part of this program and I would recommend it to everyone so they have a better understanding of what our service members undergo. It’s a great program that I’m proud to be a part of it and thankful to Edwards AFB for giving me this opportunity.”