SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Capt. Mark Hickie, 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, signals to simulated rescue crews that he is ready to be lifted from the water during water survival training Aug. 20. Water survival is one part of recurring survival, evasion, resistance and escape training and is tailored to conditions pilots from Spangdahlem might face flying over the North Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Logan Tuttle)
SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany – Capt. Timothy Riley, 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, surfaces after a scenario designed to simulate being dragged in the water by a parachute during water survival training Aug. 20. Water survival is one part of recurring survival, evasion, resistance and escape training and is tailored to conditions pilots from Spangdahlem might face flying over the North Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Logan Tuttle)
9/3/2010 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- Recurring survival evasion resistance and escape training conducted at Spangdahlem is necessary so high risk isolation personnel don't become rusty in the event they are in an adverse situation.
The Department of Defense recognized the expanded need for SERE training across the board touching a variety of air force specialty codes including careers such as flight doctors, security forces, pilots, tactical air control party specialists, combat controllers and anyone that has an increased risk of isolation.
This is determined on a case-by-case basis by functional managers as they look at taskings for remote assignments, geographically separated units, deployments or specific missions, Sergeant Wiggins explained.
"We are training our guys up," Staff Sgt. Daniel Wiggins, 52nd Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist, said. "When they are flying over 'bad guy country' or 'outside the wire,' they need to know what to do and how to react. It's a lot to teach and a lot of responsibility."
Sergeant Wiggins coordinates with German counterparts, both military and civilian, to use facilities and ranges to accomplish training requirements.
"If we need something, they are always willing to bend over backward to assist us in getting the mission done," Sergeant Wiggins said. "[Germans] are very easy to work with."
To become a SERE specialist, Sergeant Wiggins had to accomplish what he describes as lengthy and intensive training.
"It takes a lot to get through the six months of training," Sergeant Wiggins said. "There's camaraderie and a certain level of pride and accomplishment that came with completing the SERE specialist course. We are in a career field of 400 people-that's it."
Sergeant Wiggins joined out of a love for his country and a desire to contribute to the fight. The training to become a SERE specialist allowed him to personally live and experience situations that he now passes on in his teachings.
"The people I train are at the tip of the spear," Sergeant Wiggins said. "I assist in preparing them for every instance. I see this as their insurance in the event that something goes bad. God willing it never does, but now they are prepared. We are not sending these guys out there unarmed with no tools available to deal with these pretty difficult situations. When they walk out my door and go somewhere; they are prepared to return and return with honor."
The combat and water survival programs taught here are requirements for pilots to accomplish every three years. If pilots miss training, they become non-combat mission ready and are placed in 'no fly' status.
Sergeant Wiggins describes the requirements as refresher training that helps takes seconds off reaction times and possibly the difference in saving a life.
"If you haven't done your studying and preparation for a test, you are going to be nervous," Sergeant Wiggins said. "You are going to second guess all of your answers and have doubts in the back of your mind. Someone that is prepared is going to have confidence. They don't have to be as concerned when things hit the ground, as confidence lets them get the mission done and get it done well the first time around."
Sergeant Wiggins operates a currently one-deep office that meets high-tempo demands to teach Air Education and Training objectives to high risk isolation personnel providing survival skills to bring them home safely.