Survival Specialist

What is a Survival Specialist?

Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) specialists are the Air Force’s foremost experts on recovering personnel who have become isolated. Expert on all things surviving, SERE instructors ensure all high risk-of-capture/isolation personnel return with honor from any type of situation.

SERE specialists provide initial training to all Airmen at the Air Force Survival School at Fairchild AFB, WA. SERE continues that training by placing instructors at all operational bases to conduct periodic follow up skills.

SERE also provide personnel recovery expertise at Guardian Angel rescue units, Special Tactics units, various headquarters operations centers, and more. SERE also maintains the Air Force’s Test Parachute Program; evaluating special operations & emergency bailout chutes, and various jumping equipment.

SERE Specialist duties involve teaching SERE tactics, techniques, and procedures to other military members. The SERE training and certification process validates SERE Specialists to train and provide other service members the information and vital skills that could
ultimately save their lives. The SERE Specialist career field is considered Combat Support, and their primary duties do not
include direct combat or being a “door kicker” so to speak. However, SERE Specialists deploy to combat zones in support of conventional and non-conventional combat operations at various points in their career.


Official Air Force Duties and Responsibilities

A unique surface domain based specialty that bridges the seam between isolated personnel, recovery forces and C2 elements denying an adversary’s capability to exploit the United States for strategic advantage. Develops, plans, manages and conducts Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) programs. Develops, conducts, manages, and evaluates Initial SERE training and SERE Refresher Training. Provides direct support to Combatant Commanders in Personnel Recovery (PR) programs through preparation, planning, execution, and adaptation. Conducts preparation activities as part of a supporting or supported force to survey areas for evasion, recovery corridors, contact sites, potential cache site establishment, areas of interest and physical infrastructure. Provides positive control of recovery/contact sites and caches. Synchronizes joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational (JIIM) efforts for full spectrum personnel recovery. Assesses and develops Partner Nation recovery capabilities through foreign internal defense (FID) security force assistance (SFA) and Building Partnership Capacity (BPC). Operates in the eight geographic disciplines of Temperate, Arctic, Desert, Tropic, Coastal, Open Sea, Urban and Captivity, day or night, to include friendly, denied, hostile, or sensitive areas. Conducts developmental and operational testing on and instructs the use of SERE related equipment. Performs and instructs basic and emergency qualifications, along with functional certifications, to accomplish assigned USAF PPP objectives.

  • Plans, organizes, directs, and conducts SERE training activities. Designs and develops curriculum, functional structure, and procedures for Refresher SERE courses and programs. Determines training schedules according to course control documents, directives, policies, and instructional principles. Ensures student safety. Conducts classroom, laboratory, and operational training. Uses lecture, demonstration and performance, guided discussion, case study, and time and circumstance instructional methodology. Conducts training under conditions closely approximating actual SERE episodes. Training environments and scenarios include, but are not limited to, global environmental conditions, combat situations, and the full spectrum of captivity environments.
  • Develops and implements SERE joint tactics, techniques, and procedures (JTTP). Deploys in support of operational taskings for theater and Joint Forces Commanders as in-theater SERE and PR subject matter experts (SME) to support conventional and Nonconventional Assisted Recovery (NAR). Manages development and coordination of SERE and PR operations. Manages SERE programs including isolated personnel reports (ISOPREP), evasion plans of action (EPA), blood chits, evasion charts (EVC), and PR aids. Augments Joint Personnel Recovery Center (JPRC), and all DoD Component Personnel Recovery Coordination Cells (PRCC) as SERE and PR SME. Assists in developing theater PR infrastructure, CONOPS and recommends changes. Conducts Foreign Internal Defense and other Preparation Activities in support of PR.
  • Instructs and performs static line, military free fall, and emergency parachuting techniques in support of premeditated jump programs, formal jump training, formal SERE training and SERE Refresher Training (SRT). Performs parachutist duties in support of approved DoD exercises, ACC’s RED FLAG exercise, as well as AMC Operations Support Squadrons, PACAF and USAFE units supporting aircrew training and airdrop currencies. SERE Specialists are designated the AF subject matter experts for Aircrew parachute egress in an operational environment, at home station or deployed. SERE Specialists fill instructor positions at the Military Free Fall School teaching basic Military Free Fall Course, MFF Jumpmaster Course and the Advanced Military Free Fall Course.
  • Coordinates SERE activities to support PR related exercises. Performs observer and controller duties for high-risk-of-isolation personnel to ensure safety of exercise participants, ensures appropriate learning outcomes for PR forces and exercise participants, and document lessons learned from exercise events.
  • Inspects and evaluates SERE training and PR operational support programs. Determines readiness and efficacy of equipment, supplies, and training aids. Ensures standardization and compliance with policies, directives, course control documents, RM procedures, operational guidance, and instructional methodology.
  • Performs tactical mission planning and preparation. Understands special operations tactics, techniques and procedures.
  • Plans, coordinates, and conducts Operational preparation of the Environment (OPE) activities with operations and intelligence directories of the DoD, external agencies, NATO, and coalition entities to develop and establish physical infrastructure to support areas for evasion, recovery corridors, contact sites, and potential cache sites.

The SERE Training Pipeline

60% of SERE candidates do not successfully complete SST-OC. A majority of those candidates are lost due to Self-Initiated Elimination (SIE) or quitting. The bulk of the SIE’s in the SERE Pipeline are due to a lack of research on what SERE really does and not physically prepared for the road ahead.

33% of SERE candidates fail to complete SST-AC. As with SST-OC at JBSA-Lackland, a majority of those candidates are lost due to Self-Initiated Elimination (SIE) or quitting.


Duty Locations

SERE specialists are located at a large amount of Air Force bases. The preponderance of SERE specialists reside at Fairchild AFB, WA, where the Air Force Survival School is located.


Recommended Viewing

Courtesy of YouTube user: ‘USAF SERE Cadre’


For more information on Survival Specialists, check out the AFSPECWAR Forums

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