SERE instructor at Fairchild doing what she loves

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. J.T. May III
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
As the sun ascends on a cold, mid-March morning in Colville National Forest, Wash., it marks the beginning of a 14-hour training day for survival, evasion, resistance and escape students and instructors.

Three days of snow and rain have made the ground a wet, soggy, mud ice mixture. The temperature is slowly approaching the low 30s and the humidity gives the cool crisp air added moisture. The average person would get broken down mentally if he or she has to spend days in this austere environment, but not Senior Airman Charlene Plante, a 22nd Training Squadron SERE instructor. She's smiling from ear to ear because she's eager to begin the day's instruction and feels right at home in these conditions for weeks at a time.

"She's a very motivated and organized person who has a passion for the job," said Master Sgt. Travis Butikofer, the flight chief for Charlie Flight, "She has the leadership ability and integrity that we need as SERE specialists."

It's March 13 and seven SERE students, future Air Force pilots, navigators and aircrew members, gather around Airman Plante as she tells them the second training day's agenda without wearing a jacket despite the frigid temperatures: improvised shelters, triangulation, fire building, map reading, building and helicopter vectoring. Her attitude is upbeat and contagious, allowing her students who to set their sights on another rigid day of SERE training.

The Springville, Maine, native grew up building tree forts, hunting and playing in the woods located by her house. Her immense love for the outdoors played a pivotal role in her future as a SERE specialist.

Growing up she always knew she wanted a military life that would offer challenges, but didn't always know it would be in the Air Force. She recalls watching a Marine Corps documentary with her cousin, when she was younger and becoming intrigued by it.

"I believed I was joining the Marines until my dad told me either Navy or Air Force," Airman Plante said.

When it came time to talk with an Air Force recruiter, she was given the opportunity to become a crew chief. The job offer wasn't adventurous enough. After the recruiter learned about her hobbies and what she liked to do, he suggested she join to be a SERE instructor.

The Air Force offered her the chance to do something she loved, so Airman Plante didn't think twice about choosing a career field that's not for the feign of heart. Nor was she deterred by the grueling physical requirements.

Those who seek to become instructors must first complete the course they teach before enrolling in a six-month SERE specialist training program. This is one of the most physically and mentally demanding technical schools in the Air Force. The 5-foot, 3-inch Airman started making a name for herself by keeping up with the rigorous regimen.

"She is the best woodsman, my most dependable troop and one of the sharpest SERE specialists," said Staff Sgt. Alan Morse, her supervisor.

Airman Plante is just shy of her three year mark and already has gained the respect of her peers by having a great work ethic, drive and dedication to physical fitness.

Though she's not decided at this time if she'll stay to retirement, she says she's taking things one enlistment at a time.

"Whenever I have a 14- or 15-hour day, I think about all the people I have met that make this job rewarding. I'm a SERE specialist in the U.S. Air Force. How cool is that?" Airman Plante said.