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NEWS | Feb. 3, 2016

66th Training Squadron Detachment Arctic Certifies Training Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Specialist

By Staff Sgt. Joshua Turner

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- On top of an ice covered slope with constant arctic winds and less than seven hours of daylight, 20 Survival Evasion Resistance Escape specialists trained for four days in freezing temperatures, upgrading their Arctic survival training.

The Arctic survival training is a week-long course that gives S.E.R.E. specialist hands on experience with building shelters and surviving in the extreme arctic temperatures.

This course, taught by the 66th Training Squadron Detachment 1 at Eielson Air Force Base is the final step for these Airmen to become S.E.R.E. specialist journeymen.

“We brought the soon to be 5-level S.E.R.E. specialist out to the barren land on part of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range complex,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Rogers, a 66th TRS Det. 1 S.E.R.E specialist. “We bring them to a peak with good packed, windswept snow, which is good for us to build shelters and dense enough for us to cut snow blocks.”

Instructors showed students how to cut blocks out of the packed snow to build a wall next to their tents to help block the cold, harsh winds. As the sun was setting the students melted chunks of snow from around the area for a source of water and then received tasks for the night from the instructors, who would soon leave the students for the night to battle the night cold alone.

“We already know the basic principles that go along the line of survival itself,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Aguilera, a 22nd TRS S.E.R.E. specialist apprentice from Fairchild AFB, Wash. “This was the first time we’ve ever been able to cut blocks, build snow caves, snow domes, igloos and other structures that are required in these extreme conditions.”

Throughout the next day the students were busy cutting numerous other snow blocks, as well as digging snow caves and other structures they would be sleeping in for the night.

“With the shelters we built, we took our time and put in the extra effort to make them comfortable for ourselves,” Aguilera said. “That really helped us sleep a lot better.”

One of the final lessons came with help from the U.S. Army and an UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from Ft. Wainwright, Alaska. The students were given a briefing on how the aircraft can handle the arctic environment along with the hoist capability.

“The Army will come out and hoist each S.E.R.E. specialist up a little bit so they can experience the rotor wash in these temperatures,” said Rogers. “They can convey that to their students back at the survival school on what it’s like to be hoisted in an arctic environment.”

Aguilera said the biggest reward he’ll take away from the training isn’t for himself, it’s for his future students.

“I’ll be able to pass this information to them so if the time comes, they are able to survive and return with honor,” said Aguilera.

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