Survival specialists assist Nellis operations

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Tech. Sgt. Gary Roland and Tech. Sgt Jack Maher, survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists assigned to 414th Combat Training Squadron, navigate a hill on the Nevada Test and Training Range, Aug. 29, 2019. SERE specialists are highly trained survivalists who train Airmen how to survive in hostile conditions and aid in personnel recovery. (Air Force photographs by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

As members of the armed forces, Airmen may find themselves in extreme conditions. In situations where they may be captured or be separated from civilization, Airmen can rely on the training they receive from expert Air Force personnel.

“We’re in charge of personnel recovery,” said Tech. Sgt. Jack Maher, a survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialist assigned to 414th Combat Training Squadron. “What that means is for the entire Department of Defense we are the experts in survival, resistance, evasion, and escape.”

SERE specialists accomplish this task by providing training to all aircrew and certain airmen deploying to particular locations. This training includes wilderness survival, how to avoid being captured and how to behave in the event of a capture.

“Our careers start at Fairchild AFB [Wash.] as instructors,” said Maher. It’s your starting point as a SERE specialist. Then we go to a base-level spot where we do refresher training or something unique, like what we do at Red Flag.”

When it comes to the SERE specialists stationed at Nellis, the 414th CTS is involved in a unique aspect of training with Red Flag.

A survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialist assigned to the 414th Combat training Squadron, watches as another SERE specialist straps down heavy equipment on the Nevada Test and Training Range, Aug. 29, 2019. Air Force SERE personnel are in charge of personnel recovery for all of the Department of Defense. (Air Force photographs by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

“We’re one of the very few squadrons where we play red, white and blue,” said Maher. “For the blue side, we help the survivor on the ground do the right thing so they can get recovered. Our white piece is to organize both the scenarios as well as organizing the aggressor forces, and the red force are actually tracking them down on the ground.”

SERE specialists are also tasked with training Airmen in refresher sessions and at Nellis they have the opportunity to create unique and highly accurate training opportunities.

“For our combat skills training, the area around Nellis is a perfect desert setting,” said Maher. “It recreates the type of conditions that you’ll get in areas such as Iraq or Syria. We can recreate training scenarios here that you can only get in the desert environment.”

This training is important for Airmen who may be stranded in the desert; or even on the Nevada Test and Training Range.

“Even with the best of training, the desert can kill you,” said Maher. “Temperatures often exceed 110 degrees and everything in the environment is trying to bite, stab, sting or poison you.”

Airmen have the potential to deploy all over the world; and while the goal is to never get lost or captured, adaptability to any situation is necessary in a wartime scenario. The training and expertise given by SERE specialists allow Airmen to be confident so they can handle any situation that gets thrown at them.
 

An Airman stands in the middle of the Nevada Test and Training Range, Aug. 29, 2019. The NTTR is a desolate area where the United States Air Force can train in an isolated environment. (Air Force photographs by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)