09/23/05 — Cliffs of Neuse State Park is combat zone for airmen

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Cliffs of Neuse State Park is combat zone for airmen

By Turner Walston
Published in News on September 23, 2005 1:47 PM

The Cliffs of the Neuse State Park became enemy territory Monday afternoon as eight airmen from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base used the wooded park in southeastern Wayne for a refresher course on combat survival training.

Staff Sgt. Brent Knight of 4th Operations Support Squadron conducted the training session, known as a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE, training. Members of the 335th Fighter Squadron took part in the training. Airmen worked on the methods of surviving in the wilderness, avoiding capture, resisting giving up information if captured.

"Whenever you're moving, you're really increasing your chances of getting captured," Knight told the airmen. Moving deliberately and quietly is the best way to avoid capture, he said.

The airmen practiced using signaling devices such as flares and mirrors, building fires and making temporary shelters. Pilots and weapons-systems officers wear a survival vest that contains items for such uses. Also attached to their parachutes is a hit-and-run kit, that would enable them to hide after hitting the ground.

All pilots and weapon-systems officers periodically go through the refresher training. After their initial survival training, the airmen are required to go through a refresher course about every three years, Knight said.

Capt. Don Haley said he took his initial survival training at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Wash. He said it involved being held in a mock prisoner-of-war camp.

"We don't practice the resisting like we do in Spokane," Haley said of Monday's course. "I don't think you'd want to have refresher resistance training. It's very, very effective training."

Haley said the initial training involves intense mental and physical pressure.

"I clearly remember the lessons learned. I think they make it an emotional event so it's kind of tied to your psyche."

While not as intense as the resistance training, Monday's refresher course gave the airmen a strong reminder of survival and evasion techniques.

Training started out early in the day with classroom training based on case studies of downed airmen during the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War and Operation Iraqi freedom.

Knight said the pilots and weapons-systems officers studied what captured airmen did and didn't do correctly.

The course included a morning review class on resistance, while the afternoon at Cliffs of the Neuse involved the physical aspect of the training. In-the-field training needs to be second-nature to be effective, he said.

"How do you tie knots; how do you find water?" Haley said. "If you're in that situation, you're going to be under duress. It's not going to be something that you want to have to think about."