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Training to survive

  • Published
  • 185th ARW

Behind enemy lines or in the middle of the wilderness is a place that no pilot would ever like to find themselves. This is where the Master Sgt. Jeff Campbell’s knowledge and experience comes in to play. 

As a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape or “SERE” Specialist assigned to the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing, Campbell's expertise helps aircrew survive and return with honor. 

This fall, Campbell worked with aircrew members from South Dakota’s 114th Fighter Wing on land and sea survival techniques as well as escape and evasion tactics. As part of the training, Aircrew honed their land navigation and evasion skills. The pilots navigated through the woods at Newton Hills State Park using only a compass and a map while “enemy” actors tried to track them. 

“At the heart of SERE is the “Return With Honor” motto. We spend our careers training aircrew how to get back home, with honor, under any circumstances, whether that be in peacetime, wartime, or hostage environments. If we are not training aircrew to Return With Honor, then we are prepping for personnel recovery operations,” said Campbell.

As a SERE Specialist, Master Sgt. Campbell has a long list of qualifications from courses he has attended in his career including basic survival courses such as Biome Survival Training, Tactical Shooting and Driving and Military Parachuting courses. In addition, Campbell has attended several different medical courses such as EMT-B and Wilderness First Responder.

“I am qualified to teach/instruct any Air Force Survival. Evasion. Resistance. Escape (SERE) courses and refresher training for aircrew. I am also worldwide deployable in order to support Personnel Recovery Operations, missions, and training,” said Campbell. 

Campbell also mentioned that training with and teaching other units was nothing new to him and that because of the rigors of the SERE Specialist school and upgrade training, the number of qualified SERE Specialists are relatively few. The small number of SERE Specialists means Campbell stays busy training various units. 

“There are SERE Specialists in the Guard, the Reserves, and Active Duty. There just aren't as many in the Guard and Reserves at this time. SERE is beneficial for all Air Force aircrew, not only do I work with and train ANG aircrew, I also go TDY to train and work with Reserve and Active Duty aircrew,” said Campbell. 

According to Campbell SERE training isn’t just beneficiary to aircrew, any airmen who enjoy the outdoors should take an interest in SERE. 

“If we can help ensure aircrew make it back home under any kind of peacetime, wartime, or hostage scenario then we can help anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Myself and my peers, would always be happy to impart our survival knowledge on anyone who is willing to learn. I have taught hundreds of offshoot classes to civilians, AFSC's outside of the aircrew world, and other branches of military,” said Campbell.