Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE)

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Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) is a program, best known by its military acronym, that provides U.S. military personnel, U.S. Department of Defense civilians, and private military contractors with training in evading capture, survival skills, and the military code of conduct.

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History of this career field

Established by the U.S. Army Air Force 1943-47 - U.S. Air Force 1947- at the end of World War II (commonly called "Survival" training), it was extended and consolidated during the Vietnam War (1959–1975) to the U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy and in the Late 1980s to the U.S.Army. Most higher level SERE (The use of the term "SERE" was started by Navy Instructors some time in the 80's) students are Military Aircrew and Special Operations personnel considered to be at high risk of capture.

Based on the experiences of the British and American Pilots who managed to escape and evade from the Germans during World War I and II, and return to friendly lines, several private "clubs" were created during the wars. One such club was the "Late Returners Club". This club which had a "Flying Boot" as its identifying symbol, was strictly non-military. However, under the left collar, of his uniform, the individual who had successfully escaped and/or evaded the enemy pinned the "Flying Boot" and although everyone knew it was not official, they didn't question its wear. The experiences of these Evaders was passed on in lectures, guest appearances, and small regional specific training programs by the US Army Air Corps and in British military programs. Consolidation into a formal (then called "Survival" program of instruction came in 1943.

Under the direction of General Curtis LeMay it was realized that it was much cheaper and more effective to train Aircrews in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape techniques, than to have them languishing in enemy hands. He was responsible for the establishment of SERE training at several bases/locations. In 1943, the US Army established a small program for Cold Weather Survival at RCAF Station Namao in Alberta, Canada and in 1945 it was moved to Camp Carson (1945), Colorado. In 1948 at Marks Air Base, Nome, Alaska. The first instructors were composed of experienced wilderness "civilian" volunteers and USAF military personnel with prior instructor experience. This initial cadre also included "USAF Rescuemen" from around Alaska, Greenland, Colorado, etc. General LeMay attended the first class of instruction as a student.

As time wore on, the expense and wisdom of having multiple locations for training was questioned and consolidation was begun. The hardest part of that consolidation was where to locate the training base that offered the best environmental and logistical support for such a small but convoluted training program. Ultimately, the USAF consolidated at Stead AFB, Nevada. In the mid 60's, the school was moved to Fairchild AFB, WA. Note: The use of term "SERE" was adopted by the US Navy at its school in the 90's and later also at all the other services programs, prior to its adoption the program was called "Survival" (an all encompassing term).

The U.S. Air Force SERE School is located at Fairchild AFB, Washington, while SERE Training for the U.S. Army is located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and at Fort Rucker, Alabama. The Navy and Marine Corps SERE School has known locations at: the U.S. Navy Remote Training Site at Warner Springs, California, the remote Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (Bridgeport, California), and an annex of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.


The curriculum has three key parts: survival and evasion; resistance and escape; and water survival. Some parts are classified.

Survival and evasion

Most SERE training focuses on survival and evasion. Skills taught include Woodcraft and Wilderness Survival including Firecraft, Sheltercraft, Traps and Snares, Food & Water Procurement, Preservation, and Purifying, Improvised Equipment, and also specific equipment and techniques of Rescue Sciences such as Signaling, Navigation, Route Selection, Emergency First Aid (a variant of the battlefield variety), Camouflage techniques, methods of Evasion, and Communication Protocols, in all types of climate and terrain.
Resistance and escape

Training on how to survive and resist the enemy in the event of capture is largely based on the experiences of past U.S. prisoners of war.

Water survival

How to survive in water is taught at a separate Professional Military Education (PME) course; it takes three days and is typically attended after the main SERE course. In addition to training in the use of aquatic survival gear, more academic skills include first aid tailored to an aquatic environment, communication protocols, ocean ecology, and equipment maintenance.

Code of conduct

SERE training is intended, above all, to provide students with the skills needed to live up to the U.S. military code of conduct when in uncertain or hostile environments. It is:

    I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
    I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
    If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
    If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
    When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability, I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
    I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.


SERE training takes place at three levels:

    Level A: Entry level training. These are the Code of Conduct mandatory classes taken by all at induction (recruit training and OCS).
    Level B: For those operating or expected to operate forward of the division rear boundary and up to the forward line of own troops (FLOT). Normally limited to aircrew of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. Level B focuses on survival and evasion, with resistance in terms of initial capture.
    Level C: For troops at a high risk of capture and whose position, rank or seniority make them vulnerable to greater than average exploitation efforts by any captor. Level C focuses on resistance in terms of prison camps.

Service schools


SERE training is included in the flight school curriculum at Fort Rucker, Alabama for all Army Flight crews, both commissioned officers and warrant officers. It is the full course of 21 days. There is also a school at Camp Mackall for candidates in the Special Forces pipeline.[3]
Navy/Marine Corps

Level A is taught to recruits and candidates in Officer Candidate School and the Recruit Depots, or under professional military education.

Level B at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California, and at the North Training Area, Camp Gonsalves, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

Level C is held at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine at the Navy Remote Training Site, Rangeley, and at Naval Air Station North Island, California at the Navy Remote Training Site, Warner Springs. This installation provides 'Code of Conduct' that is necessary for Recon Marines, Marine Corps Scout Snipers, MARSOC Marines, Navy SEALs, enlisted Navy and Marine Aircrewman, Naval Aviators, Naval Flight Officers, Naval Flight Surgeons, and Navy SWCC. As the "eyes" and "ears" of the commander, they carry knowledge of sensitive battlefield information.

The training encompasses those basic skills necessary for worldwide survival, facilitating search and rescue efforts, evading capture by hostile forces. It is based on and reinforces the values expressed in the Code of Conduct while maintaining an appropriate balance of sound educational methodology and realistic/stressful training scenarios.

Additional survival training in Level C Code of Conduct may include the five-day Peacetime Detention and Hostage Survival (PDAHS) course. This training provides the skills to survive captivity by a hostile government or terrorist cell during peacetime.

Air Force

The primary Air Force SERE training center is at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; training for Level "B" medical aircrew was conducted at Brooks City-Base, Texas until the planned course closure 30 September 2009. The Air Force conducts Arctic Survival Training - Cool School at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and Parachuting and NON-Parachuting Water Survival Training at Fairchild AFB, Washington. The parachute water survival training which used to be located in Florida ceased operations there in August 2015.

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Qualifications for this career field

Each branch of the US Military has its own requirements for entry into the Selection Process, and subsequent entry into the Formal Training School or OJT (on-the-job) training. The USAF is a Career long field. The US Navy and Marine Corps is a 3 year assignment. The US Army is also short term.
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Best parts of having this specialty

How does one describe the best career field in the military. Not only do you get paid to camp and fish, your paid to parachute, backpack, scale mountains, perform rescues, raft oceans, lakes, and rivers, conduct seashore penetration, travel to remote sites no matter where in the world they are and live there with the natives. Always remembering that the only reason we exist is to train others to survive. If you are the best outdoorsman or woman in the world, but cannot teach, we have no use for you.

Once you join this fraternity of super freaks, you will forever be recognized as the expert in Wilderness Survival, Combatives, Parachuting, Open Ocean Survival, Rivers and Rafting, Sea Shore Penetration, Rough Land Evacuation, Sheltercraft, Firecraft, Tracking, Food and Water Procurement - Preparation - Preservation, Signaling, Navigation, Rough Land Travel, Water Procurement - Treatment - Preservation, and many more areas.
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Worst parts of having this specialty

They never pay enough.
You will risk your life on real and training missions routinely and love it.
Extensive travel. Military or civilian. Usually in serviceable aircraft.
Living remotely on minimal rations and eating all kinds of ....stuff...
Scrounging for sustenance.
Being cold, wet, freezing, or baked in the desert sun. Dehydration, Frostbite, Frost nip, Heat Stroke or Exhaustion, Blisters, Broken Limbs, etc., are all training aids.
Little sleep...did I mention little sleep? Well, get used to it.
Camping out will become second nature. In the USAF you will deploy every 3 weeks for 6 days after graduation from the formal school for a minimum of 4 years.
Performing mandatory treks across snow covered mountains, training in extreme cold environments (Arctic or Antarctic or Open Ocean, etc.).
Teaching requires extensive background knowledge on the part of the instructor who must not only know his equipment and training subjects (67 of them), and environmental hazards, Rescue Procedures, Plants, Animal Life, etc.
In the USAF after selection you will attend a 6 month all environment extensive and exhausting school, and then face 56 weeks of follow on training in order to certify. You will be required to jump from perfectly good aircraft, many many of them. You will become a "Test Parachutist" (USAF Only) and be required to live in California (Oh man. Not that) and you will be the guinea pig for the Department of Defense in testing all new deployment systems (ejection seats and new aircraft) that will be used by parachutists throughout DOD prior to those items being placed in service. You will jump into high seas, low rivers (boulders suck), remote sites and any dang where the Military can think of.
You may be required to learn languages for your deployments or use Native contacts.
You will learn to construct shelters, fires, camps, fish traps, improvised gear and clothing, animal traps, man traps, and all kinds of neat stuff. (God I love my job).
You will meet strange and interesting people who want to kill you when they learn your not letting them graduate. Which of course means they are grounded from flying in the military until they do.

Yeah. This job sucks. It ain't for you. No use in trying. (we never gain empathy for our students.). Suck it up buttercup! Go do something else.

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Advice on how to transfer to this specialty

For the USAF, go to

Most recent contributors: MSgt Charles Johnson

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