MIGHTY CULTURE
Airman Antwain Hanks

How pilots train to survive, evade, resist, and escape behind enemy lines

(US Air Force/Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

Being an aircrew member in the armed forces isn't just flying a plane, helicopter or a jet. It's putting your own personal safety on the line to protect people from threats known and unknown.

Lastly, it's being brave enough to answer a call that most don't.

From as early as 1909, when the Wright brothers sold the Wright military flyer to the US Army Signal Corps, aircraft and aircrew have been a vital part to the success of military operations.

The armed forces puts a great emphasis on ensuring these pilots are safe and have the knowledge and skills to make it home safe in any situation they might endure.

This responsibility heavily lies on the shoulders of the United States Air Force's survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) specialist, whose main job is to train aircrew and other military personnel how to survive in a variety of environments and conditions.


"I joined the Air Force and spent my first three years as an F-15 crew chief," said Tech Sgt. Timothy Emkey, 366th Fighter Wing SERE specialist. "I cross-trained to because I wanted to do something more challenging and outside of the norm."

Staff Sgt. David Chorpeninng, 366th Fighter Wing survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialist, explains the differences between the illumination and smoke ends of the MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal to Capt. Scott Hatter and Capt. Tyler Ludwig, 389th Fighter Squadron aircrew, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

SERE specialists teach multiple courses and hold yearly and monthly refreshers with other military personnel to ensure they know what's required to survive in a deployed environment and to better their knowledge and skills on what to do if they have to bail out.

Chorpeninng pops a M-18 smoke grenade, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

One of these trainings is combat skills training (CST). CST helps instill the necessary skills and knowledge needed to survive in a situation where the aircrew must bailout from the aircraft behind enemy lines.

Chorpeninng explains to Hatter how to properly use a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

The training starts with an hour-long classroom session before aircrew are taken out to Saylor Creek Bombing Range. Then the aircrew are taught how to use everything from flares, radios and other equipment to properly and effectively invade the enemy and return to safety.

Tech Sgt. Timothy Emkey, 366th Fighter Wing survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialist, checks radio communications, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

Aircrew are then given certain points to reach via global positioning system before they contact friendly forces to extract them from the hostile area.

Emkey demonstrates how to use the surrounding area to evade the enemy's line of sight, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

Aircrew throughout history, such as Capt. Scott F. O'Grady who in 1995 was shot down and stranded in enemy territory for six days during the Bosnian War, used these skills taught by SERE to return to safety.

"Knowing we provide training that could save someone's life, but hope they never have to use it, is one of the most rewarding things in this job," Emkey said.

Chorpeninng pops the illumination end of a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

Dedicated SERE specialists take lessons learned from situations all over the world, not just the military, and apply it to SERE's skill set, whether it be survival, evasion, resistance or escape.

Chorpeninng pops the illumination end of a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

The US Air Force's main missions are to take care of airmen and enhance readiness. SERE accomplishes just that and will continue to with the ever changing environment these men and women might find themselves in.

Chorpeninng pops the illumination end of a MK-124 marine smoke and illumination signal, at Saylor Creek Bombing Range, Idaho, Sept. 26, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman Antwain L. Hanks)

"SERE is constantly adapting," said Staff Sgt. David Chorpeninng, 366th FW SERE specialist. "We are continuously implementing new technology and tactics to increase survivability in the future."

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.