SERE augmentee program offers cross training opportunity

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kylie Barrow
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE - - Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape specialists are the Air Force's leading experts on surviving, evading, resisting and escaping the most hostile and austere environments around the world.

At Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, one of the SERE specialists' responsibilities is training aircrew on survival tactics and procedures in case of an emergency when they’re forced to abandon their aircraft.

Hundreds of Aircrew members assigned to Seymour Johnson AFB have to regularly take a refresher course when their survival refresher training is due. To assist with this retraining and to make the scenarios as realistic as possible, the base’s SERE team utilizes an augmentee program.

Augmentees get to be involved in multiple operations and exercises such as Razor Talon, have direct contact with aircrew and learn what to do in a survival situation.

"All bases have an augmentee program and usually what's done is an email gets sent out asking for volunteers, they show up and then we never see them again," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Krape, 4th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist and non-commissioned officer in charge of weapons and tactics. "Whereas here at Seymour Johnson, it’s an actual program that you train for and work for.”

Krape puts the potential augmentees through the special operations forces physical training test known as the Physical Ability and Stamina Test, or PAST. After they successfully complete the PAST, Krape takes the potential augmentees into the woods to an unspecified location in North Carolina for a three-day course on survival training. The Airmen are provided with an F-15E Strike Eagle survival kit consisting of a poncho, space blanket, knife, compass, fire starters, water purifiers, map of the area and a few other essential items.

They must then survive and evade in a simulated scenario by finding water and food sources, and make it to a specified location without being captured as SERE specialists whilst certified augmentees act as opposing forces trying to capture them.

The training provided for the SERE augmentees gives them a better understanding of what the aircrew could go through, which allows them to give a more realistic training experience when helping during the refresher courses.

Krape stated that something a lot of Airmen aren't aware of is the augmentee program at SJAFB is a good way to cross train for anyone interested in a special warfare career.

"When I pitched the idea for the program to the commander, I specified that I would also like to help Airmen that want to cross train to a special operation career field," said Krape. "This way, they are surrounded by like-minded Airmen that are working toward a similar goal.”

Krape also mentioned they've been able to collect a various amount of paperwork including memorandums for record and waivers for Airmen, which accumulated during obstacles encountered over the years. Having these documents on tap makes helping his augmentee Airmen during the cross training process easier.

Krape said there is a lot of misinformation passed around about cross training that discourages Airmen from even trying or continuing to try. There are waivers and a memorandum for record for just about anything, and becoming a part of special operations forces is more possible than Airmen may think.

The first step for Airmen interested in cross training into special operation forces is to complete and submit a cross training packet, medical clearance, security clearance, psychological evaluation and meet the physical training standards. Once all requirements are submitted and there is no derogatory or disqualifying remarks that are not able to be waived, Airmen become approved to cross train and receive a date to attend selection. Selection is a process done at Lackland Air Force Base’s Medina Training Annex in San Antonio, Texas, where it is determined if an Airman qualifies for SERE technical school and survival training. If an Airman makes it through selection, they will then receive a date to go to technical training.

Senior Airman Joel Mier, 4th Component Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuels systems specialist, an Airman that became involved in the SERE augmentee program in 2018, went through the cross training process during his time as an augmentee.

"I originally joined the Air Force for SERE and didn't make it through selection the first time,” said Mier. “When I first arrived at Seymour in 2017, I heard about a ranger assessment and ended up meeting some guys that were part of the SERE augmentee program, which is how I got involved.”

Now almost four years later, Mier has made it through selection, received his date for technical training and will be leaving soon to start training to become a SERE specialist. Mier stated that the augmentee program helped give him a different perspective that a lot of Airmen don't have the opportunity to see and experience.

"If you’ve worked in maintenance for so long, the day-to-day starts to feel less and less important. It can be hard to connect yourself to the mission and feel a sense of purpose," said Mier. "But with the augmentee program, Airmen actually work directly with SERE specialists and aircrew, we get to see on a larger scope how we fit into the mission. It helps change your mind set by seeing the Air Force's bigger picture which introduces a different perspective."

Krape also mentioned that even if an Airman is not interested in cross training, the augmentee program is an opportunity for Airmen to broaden their understanding of the Air Force in general.

"I didn't really know how little so many Airmen saw or knew of the overall Air Force mission during their daily operations," said Krape. "That was an accidental discovery when working with the Airmen in the program throughout the years. The augmentee program started out with myself as a SERE specialist needing help, but now it has evolved into how can I help these Airmen."