Faith in training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lauren Pitts
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
For an aircrew member, it is one of the worst-case scenarios. When faced with a crash landing or after being shot down, a crew might be forced to eject as a last resort – even if it’s over open water or enemy territory.

Whether they land in the middle of the ocean or in the wilderness of a combat zone, it is up to the crew to survive on their own until help arrives. They must rely on their training: the training to survive in a one-man raft, the training to avoid being taken captive by enemy forces. The training that Staff Sgt. Anthony J. Barrette, a 5th Operations Support Squadron operations and training NCO, and survival, evasion, resistance, and escape instructor, hopes no one ever needs to use.

Barrette, one of only two SERE instructors on base, teaches code of conduct continuation training, a survival course required for pilots and aircrews every three years.

"Aircrews are in higher risk of being isolated in a number of different places, whether it's combat or non-combat," Barrette said. "Our training is designed to give the skills and knowledge to survive regardless of the situation."

The most recent class to pass through SERE's curriculum underwent both basic water survival and combat survival training, Barrette said. So, donning full flight suits, parachutes and life vests, Barrette and the aircrews took to the base pool.

Exercising scenarios where the crew landed over open water, the students were taught how to deploy their life rafts, survive in them and find sustenance. They also learned what they should do in case their parachutes land over them or are inflated and begin to drag them through the water.

"We teach them not to panic, regardless of what's going on," Barrette said. "They've been trained on how to handle this."

The second portion of training, combat survival, takes place approximately 50 miles south of Minot AFB. In this secluded prairie, the aircrews and instructors operated the scenario of landing in enemy territory and evading capture. All the while, they trained with the mindset that their worst day as an evader is better than their best day as a captive.

The crews were taught the basics of evasion: navigation and how to navigate while evading; how to collect food and water; how to properly camouflage; how to build a small shelter and how to build a fire without being seen, Barrette said.

"Them having this training gives them peace of mind while they're flying and doing their mission," he said. "If something were to happen where they end up on the ground, they know they've been trained on how to survive."

For Barrette, his 12 years of experience in SERE has made this training second nature to him. Aircrew after aircrew, course after course, he passes his knowledge on to each student with both parties understanding one day that knowledge might be necessary in a real-life situation.

"We're sending people over to hostile environments, and there is always the possibility that they'll be shot down. They need to know what to do so they can come home," Barrette said. "The ultimate goal of anyone who hits the ground is to come home."