Joint-service CSAR training proves essential for aircrew survival

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy)

by Airman 1st Class Ryan Conroy
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/13/2014 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Joint-service combat search and rescue training missions were held for the first-time Jan. 28 to Feb. 11 at Cellina Meduna training grounds near Maniago, Italy.

The 31st Fighter Wing teamed up with the U.S. Army 12th Combat Aviation Brigade for joint CSAR training. There were several aspects to the training mission to include close air support, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training for personnel on the ground and a search and rescue coordinated with a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew extracting isolated pilots from "hostile" environments.

"The 12th CAB originally approached us about using our base for training and when we found out what kind of equipment they were bringing down here, which included U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk medical helicopters, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to practice our personnel recovery operations," said Maj. Christopher Potter, 31st FW Plans and Programs air battle manager.

With a long-standing tradition of making Airmen the priority, CSAR training stresses the real-world threat of the Air Force's most precious commodity-- military personnel.

"Not only is the isolated person a U.S. military member but they are also someone's son, daughter, father, mother, family relative or friend," explained Staff Sgt. Claude Brown, 31st FW SERE specialist. "Obviously, the U.S. never wants to lose a military member or see them fall into the hands of the enemy and neither does their family or friend. If the training we provide can help or be the deciding factor in returning them home as safe as possible, then they will live to fight another day and go home to their friends and family."

This unique training allowed the joint personnel recovery team to exercise skills that aren't commonly applied in a field environment here. Firstly, it allowed for SERE specialists and aircrew to evade capture, communicate with assets in the air and practice hoist training with a helicopter.

"In the case of this exercise, we placed opposing forces on the ground. The individuals on the ground executing their survival training evaluated what the threats on the ground were and it really gave them an opportunity to go out there and practice their evasion skills," said Potter.