War is not like a video game; it is much more brutal, and being stranded in the middle of nowhere or becoming a prisoner of war is one of the worst scenarios a soldier could face.
So, to increase the chances of survival in these conditions, the SERE Traning (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) program exists.
The SERE Training is one of the most frighteningly, unorthodox and extreme military programs today. It was formally established by the USAF at the end of the Korean war – and if it had been established earlier, it might have reduced US losses during the Korean war. There were around 3000 POWs, and those who survived were subjected to brainwashing techniques and were mentally broken.
Part 1. Survival and evasion
SERE by William Johnson. Public Domain.
The first part of the SERE Training is survival and evasion. Survival training begins in the classroom for the first week. Then, you test yourself in the field, living off the land, making campfires, catching and gathering food, and finding water, all while evading the enemy.
Evading an enemy is all about not getting caught and avoiding being a POW. In fact, well-trained soldiers have the mental strength to remain calm and apply that knowledge even in the most stressful situations.
Also, survival training helps soldiers face and overcome a series of challenges and obstacles that can ultimately lead to lower morale, fear, cold, frustration, hunger, exhaustion, pain, and so on.
Part 2. Resistance and escape
SERE training by Erin McClellan. Public Domain.
The second part of the SERE Training is known as resistance and escape. It teaches how to survive and resist the enemy if captured.
It is based on the past experience of POWs, and it is expected to prepare those who might be captured for the hardships, stress, interrogation, and indoctrination.
Here, you are a captured POW. While captured, your objective is not to give any information during interrogations, and not to be used as propaganda by the enemy.
The first lesson consists of knowing one’s duty and rights if taken prisoner by learning the U.S. combat force code. Trainees must memorize this code before they begin the training.
Resistance is usually conducted in a simulation laboratory environment in which the instructors act as hostile captors. and soldiers are treated as realistically as possible with harsh isolation conditions, close confinement, stress, and mock interrogation.
Although it’s impossible to simulate the reality of hostile captivity fully, this training has proven very effective for those who have endured actual captivity to know what to expect of themselves in those conditions.
SERE Training saved lives in real-world scenarios
SERE: Survival training by Derek Seifert. Public Domain.
Jeremiah Denton was one case where SERE Training techniques have been applied in real-life conditions.
When the U.S. navy commander Jeremiah Denton was captured by the Vietcong after his aircraft was shot down in 1965 and held captive in a prison camp, he was forced to appear at a televised press conference and support the communist regime.
However, he repeatedly blinked the word “torture” in the Morse code to let everyone know he has been forced to be there. This way, he avoided being part of communist propaganda by the Vietcong.
Denton and other POWs were liberated in Operation Homecoming later… and if he had no survival training, maybe he wouldn’t have survived the harsh treatment behind the enemy lines. He would definitely have given sensitive information.
SERE Training is crucial to surviving as a POW
Students never forget the simulations and lessons taught, and the confidence gained can save lives.
SERE Training instructors have combined years of knowledge and experience directly from surviving POWs, making this course an invaluable tool for all those who could be in danger of being captured.
In the end, the result of the course is a stronger and more devoted American military member with knowledge that will save his or her life in almost any behind enemy lines situation.
Featured image credit: SERE by William Johnson. Public Domain.