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Aircrew members traverse combat survival training challenges

Maj. Rob Gatti applies paint to his face in preparation for a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. Gatti is from the 65th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Maj. Rob Gatti applies paint to his face in preparation for a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. Gatti is from the 65th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Aircrew members simulate being captured by a mock adversary during a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. SERE is a program that provides training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Aircrew members simulate being captured by a mock adversary during a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. SERE is a program that provides training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Aircrew members simulate being captured by a mock adversary during a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. SERE is a program that provides training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Aircrew members simulate being captured by a mock adversary during a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. SERE is a program that provides training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Aircrew members simulate being captured by a mock adversary during a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. SERE is a program that provides training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

Aircrew members simulate being captured by a mock adversary during a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. SERE is a program that provides training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

An aircrew member maneuvers through a wooded area while escaping capture during a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. SERE is a program that provides training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

An aircrew member maneuvers through a wooded area while escaping capture during a combat survival refresher course Oct. 9, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The survival, evasion, resistance and escape combat survival refresher course is designed to familiarize aircrew members with combat skills learned through hands-on training in a realistic environment. SERE is a program that provides training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS) -- Placed in the middle of the woods, pursued by an unknown number of adversaries, and the day's last light sinking beyond the horizon is exactly the type of setting survival, evasion, resistance and escape, or SERE, instructors hope to train aircrew members in.

The setting is the training ground for the SERE combat survival course here, where aircrew members train on how to survive and evade capture in case needed during a real world situation.

Aircrew members are required to attend SERE CST as a refresher every 36 months to ensure that vital skill sets are maintained in case they survive a crash or have to ditch their aircraft, potentially behind enemy lines.

During the training, aircrew members are re-familiarized on land navigation, evasion and escape tactics, recovery procedures and communication.

"What we like to throw at them up front is just that awareness of survival radios," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Garcia, a 15th Operations Support Squadron SERE instructor. "They've changed over the years and a lot of aircrew just might not be as proficient as what they assumed they were with the old radios."

Garcia further explained what SERE CST is intended to accomplish.

"It's an in depth training course that could be 14 hours throughout the entire day of academics, field demonstrations, to what we call student practices," Garcia said. "It's a live demo of what it would look like from the initial gathering of equipment to the different stages of evasion. Then they get to go out on their own, we observe them for a little bit, and then we kick them out and they go through a low light to a last light movement."

In a real world scenario there is the potential that aircrew members could be pursued by enemy forces and SERE instructors make sure to simulate the threat while Airmen move through the course. After escaping capture, aircrew members navigate through the terrain toward a location where they can be recovered while simulated opposing forces pursue them.

"First and foremost, what we want them to be able to adopt is a will to survive," Garcia said. "It's the ability to overcome the uncomfortable, to be able to persevere through the environment and the uncomfortable situation that they find themselves in."

SERE instructors at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam conduct combat survival training once a month,. 12 months a year, to ensure aircrew members are qualified and better prepared for a worst case scenario.

Garcia hopes the training provided has positive and lifesaving results for the aircrew he instructs.

"I hope that if they find themselves in a situation they are able to utilize their equipment, utilize their radios and be able to communicate," Garcia said. "They need to know that there are people out there looking for them and know the Department of Defense as a whole, the joint force, has a complete rescue package that's waiting for them to get them picked up, within a matter of minutes if we can."

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