Thursday, April 23, 2009

IG Tests SERE and Personnel Recovery During ORI

by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/23/2009 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Exercise, Exercise, Exercise: A rescue operation consisting of helicopters, A-10 Thunderbolts and F-16 Falcons was ordered today when an A-10 pilot ejected from his aircraft.

After a positive identification and establishment of the pilot's exact location, the 33rd Rescue Squadron successfully retrieved the downed pilot at 8:36 a.m.

The pilot returned to Osan with minor injuries and was treated by medical personnel.

This rescue is actually just a scenario, which took place about two hours south-west of Osan Air Base, on the western coast of the Republic of Korea, April 22. It is part of the base's Operational Readiness Inspection, Beverly Bearcat 09-03.

"I am here to evaluate the pilot going through his actions and phases of evasion from start to recovery," said Tech. Sgt. Greg Adams, survival evasion resistance and escape (SERE) specialist and inspector general (IG) for BB 09-03.

"I am looking to see if his radio communication is correct, if he knows his equipment and if he knows the information from his personnel recovery brief," he said.

The simulation starts with a pilot who ejects from his aircraft and parachutes to the ground. His mission is to evade capture and get rescued utilizing all his SERE tactics, techniques and procedures.

These TTPs are all actions required to successfully survive, evade enemy capture and return with honor.

"We do regular SERE training with the aircrew here," said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Hawthorne, SERE specialist. "We also do personnel recovery during every operational readiness exercise to prepare the aircrew for combat ops."

Capt. Shane Willis, an A-10 pilot with the 25th Fighter Squadron, was selected as the evader/survivor on the ground. He was given all the tools needed to survive, evade and get rescued. He is evaluated on everything.

"By observing him, I can actually evaluate the SERE specialists here at Osan as well," said Sergeant Adams, here from the 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa, Japan. "If I quiz him, he should know the information."

And he does. As Captain Willis made his way through the dense undergrowth and steep sandy terrain, he is asked questions about everything from land navigation to evasion techniques. He answered them all.

His goal: "Basically, I just don't want to get captured during land navigation after ejection."

Although there were no enemy combatants on the ground during his evasion, the inspection was very realistic, and Captain Willis was held to a very high standard.

"I think the most difficult portions for me was the signaling of high altitude aircraft during concealment using a signal mirror," said Captain Willis. "The pilot has to look out his canopy to see one guy on the ground at about 15-20,000 feet. Even A-10s at 3,000 feet are hard to see."

Before pilots ever get in a plane, they are briefed on their survival and evasion plan.

"You need to know that information for things to go smoothly. They have to be able to know the person on the radio is who he says he is," said Captain Willis.

The SERE specialists at Osan are responsible for all the continuation training for 51st Fighter Wing aircrew as well as the personnel recovery operational support programs.

The training includes local area survival, combat survival, conduct after capture, water survival, emergency parachute and contingency SERE indoctrination.

"We build realistic personnel recovery scenarios to evaluate and strengthen the 51 Fighter Wing's ability to execute SERE TTPs and support mission critical personnel recovery operations," said Sergeant Hawthorne. "Ultimately, this increases the combat effectiveness of the 51st Fighter Wing."

The scenario ended with the recovery of Captain Willis, although, he was not picked up using a helicopter, but rather a Ford F-250.

"Overall, I think it went well. I followed my post ejection checklist and adhered to my plan of action," said Captain Willis. "I was picked up and rescued."

"It's important to remember that SERE training gives personnel the tools needed to return with honor," said Sergeant Adams. "We need to see if the training can be improved and build upon that foundation."

For the 51st Fighter Wing, Operational Readiness Inspection BB 09-03 started April 19 and is scheduled to end on April 24."

Sergeant Adams would not comment on any inspection details.

Only one of the eight associated pictures:

Capt. Shane Willis, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot with the 25th Fighter Squadron, applies camouflage paint during a personnel recovery inspection, part of Osan Air Base's Operational Readiness Inspection, Beverly Bearcat 09-03, April 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson) Hi-res


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