SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
In today’s Air Force, Airmen are assigned to a primary duty and unless they retrain or take on additional duties, the Airmen don’t experience much outside of their realm.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Krape, 4th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist, began breaking that norm by initiating the SERE Augmentee Program at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.
“This program is here to help everyone,” said Krape. “The Airmen have an opportunity to experience things they wouldn’t normally go through and at the same time, learn invaluable information which could save their life down the road.”
Krape added that the program benefits the SERE team at Seymour Johnson AFB since there are only two SERE specialists on base. The two specialists alternate deployments leaving one person to man the base.
“The augmentees are able to help us get things done,” Krape said. “We can save time preparing for exercises, help out other agencies, but most of all they help us when the pilots are retraining.”
As a mission requirement, pilots retake SERE classes every three years. It’s imperative for pilots and weapons systems officers to know how to survive in hostile deployed areas in case of an emergency; like parachuting out of their damaged aircraft, for example.
“By having the augmentees, our pilots get more personal training,” said Krape. “Instead of just having one person trying to make sure an entire group of pilots are good to go, I can rely on my Airmen to ensure that each pilot has their survival skills geared up and ready.”
Airman 1st Class Angela Lambert, 4th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, is a SERE augmentee and will help Krape with pilot refresher courses once she passes her training.
“This program is great for everyone involved,” Lambert said. “I enjoy the mental and physical challenge, and I’m learning important stuff like survival techniques. I can’t wait to help the pilots practice their survival tactics.”
In order to become a SERE augmentee, the Airmen need to pass the physical ability and stamina test, a water survival training course as well as a combat survival training course.
But the training doesn’t end there.
On June 20, 2017, seven augmentees traveled to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol Precision Driver's Training Facility to work with the North Carolina Emergency Management during a training exercise.
Alex Auten, the NCEM multi-hazard field planner for the Eastern branch, led the class.
“Working together is mutually beneficial to the Air Force and to NCEM,” said Auten. “Because of certain time restraints and qualifications, it’s hard to find volunteers to work with us so we can get our necessary training. The augmentees give us the people we need in order to train, and they learn how to do it at the same time. They bring that information back to base and share it making everyone involved safer and more knowledgeable.”
Auten added the NCEM currently has a 100% safety record in both training and real-world situations.
For this exercise, the NCEM Urban Search and Rescue Task Force practiced multiple short haul rescues from a Bell-407 helicopter. The augmentees observed how the crew rescued a mannequin and a volunteer, Carly Sherrod, an NCEM intern, multiple times.
Retired Master Sgt. Vontez Morrow joined the augmentees in experiencing the exercise up close and personal.
“Even though we weren’t able to perform the short haul ourselves, it was good to be able to see it done properly first hand,” Morrow said. “Having this opportunity gave us a better idea of what would happen during an incident and we can use that knowledge to better prepare the pilots on what to expect.”
The augmentees will be tested incessantly and will continue learning new things to ensure they are at the top of their game.
After all, keeping Team Seymour’s Airmen at their best is how Seymour Johnson AFB is able to provide dominant Strike Eagle Airpower…Anytime, anywhere!