SERE augmentees: More than just a club
By Senior Airman Kenneth Boyton
/ Published April 01, 2019
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Every day, pilots and weapons system officers fly in dangerous skies over uncontrolled territory. With every flight comes a risk that the aircraft will go down, and the aircrew will have to rely on their survival, evasion, resistance and escape training.
Pilots and WSOs need to refresh their combat survival and water survival training to fortify their skills, and to learn about the newest technology and methods available.
At Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the training is conducted by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Krape, 4th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist. Being a lone instructor, Krape relies on his SERE augmentee group, part of the Make It Better club initiative, to help him properly train the aircrew quickly and efficiently.
“All of these Airmen go through the training that they are going to provide,” said Krape. “They go through the water survival training and put on a flight suit, and get pulled through the water to simulate a parachute dragging them. They also go through a condensed S-V-80 course, or combat survival training.”
This training helps the augmentees better understand what the aircrew are going through, and allows them to provide a more realistic training strategy.
On March 26, Krape and the augmentees took nine aircrew members to a local public pool for WST training. Among the aircrew was a previous wing commander of Seymour Johnson AFB, Brig. Gen. Mark Slocum, Air Combat Command Inspector General.
“It’s outstanding that these Airmen are coming out during their downtime to help with the training,” Slocum said.
Slocum added that some of the augmentees took time off from their job and lauded the supervisors who keep the mission moving forward while allowing their Airmen to take part in the training.
The Airmen who participate relish being able to see another side of the Air Force.
“I enjoy being here and being able to help make sure these pilots and WSOs get the best training possible,” said Airman 1st Class Joel Mier, 4th Component Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems journeyman. “I’ve always been interested with SERE and this group gives me the ability to be part of it and to meet likeminded people.”
During the training, Mier demonstrated each training segment before the aircrew participated. He swam under a parachute in the water, using special techniques to not get entangled and drown, detached himself from his simulated parachute while being pulled through the water, and jumped into an inflatable raft while simulating a dislocated shoulder. Mier also demonstrated the use of two different devices which are commonly used in evacuations.
Senior Airman Kenneth Brannan, 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft maintenance journeyman, and Airman 1st Class Zachary Perdue, 4th CMS egress apprentice, also participated in the training.
“Besides helping set up the equipment, we ensure the pilots have the safety gear on correctly, and then we simulate everything that’s happening to them,” Brannan said.
Brannan’s main job was pulling the aircrew member through the pool to simulate a parachute dragging the member through the water.
“Their job is to unlatch themselves from their parachute before the water overcomes them and they drown,” added Brannan. “It’s my job to make it as realistic as possible, while watching them to make sure they’re safe.”
Perdue was tasked with throwing rescue devices to the aircrew treading water, and simulating a helicopter pulling them up.
“These rescue devices need to be used a certain way, otherwise they can really hurt the aircrew,” Perdue said. “If they aren’t seated on the device properly, as soon as I start pulling them through the water, the device will slam into them and make the rest of the rescue a bit uncomfortable.”
Over the course of a morning, the nine aircrew members went through each of the courses and were able to dry off and head home.
Slocum added, “This club, these Airmen, are providing a training regimen that helps keep our service members safe, and they’re having fun doing it. They’re meeting people, making friends, and making it better.”