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31st Fighter Wing SERE operations and training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Cool, yet crisp air hits your face as you go 25 mph per hour up a narrow white road, at an elevation of about 4,000 feet, searching for the pilots who are immersed in a Combat Survival training scenario.

During the Combat Survival training course, four pilots were given a mission to survive and follow various task such as hiding from the opposition.

Tech. Sgt. Michael Rutland, noncommissioned officer in charge of Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training, is one of two members at Aviano Air Base who teach six refresher courses related to water survival, captivity, emergency parachuting and even the local area.

SERE specialists are responsible for teaching the refresher course at least once a month.  

“We provide 80% of the SERE refresher trainings to the F-16 guys and HH-60 guys,” said Rutland. “This training is the Combat Survival training and we typically do it once a month. It’s a three year currency for the pilots.”

There are various steps to the course, which integrates academics in the classroom with a large hands-on-training. 

“We do everything in a crawl, walk, run fashion,” said Rutland. “They’re in the classroom for about two hours. Then we get into the vehicles and head over to the training area and basically practice everything we taught them in the morning. So they will be given a scenario, just to immerse themselves and to know the situation of what the mission is that they are supporting.”

The training assures that pilots are lethal and rapidly ready.

“The Combat Survival Training course helps the pilots maintain combat mission readiness,” said Rutland. “It’s a twofold for them, they maintain their currency for being CMR. But if they find themselves in an isolating event, its refreshes and reviews the skills they need to be able to survival while they’re behind enemy lines or a non-contested environment.”

The refresher course is meant to give a real-world scenario in a real-world setting.

“I think a lot of it is that they have an opportunity to have the equipment and their survival kit if they were to find themselves on the ground, so it gives them an opportunity to open that up, use it, see what they have,” said Rutland.  “It also exposes them to psychological stress, which is huge.”

The training assures we continuously deter through safe, secure and effective operations.

“At the end of the day, what I’d like to think they would take away from it is that it builds muscle memory,” said Rutland. “So if and when something happens they react with the training they have versus reacting to the situation.”

Additionally, Rutland hopes to open the training to more individuals on Aviano Air Base.

“One of the goals of mine here is to open this training up for augmentees across the fighter wing, so they can come out and see what we do and they can also see how they integrate and what they do is important in their own AFSC as well,” said Rutland.

Overall, courses such as these are vital for Team Aviano because they assure we win today’s fight and we are ready to win tomorrow’s fight.