STEWART AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. – Among the mountains, woods, and water of the Hudson Valley, aircrew members with the 137th Airlift Squadron of the 105th Airlift Wing completed combat survival training at Plum Point County Park, New Windsor, New York, June 1.
The training was led by Staff Sgt. Ian Kuhn, a survival, evade, resist, escape (SERE) specialist with the 106thRescue Wing in Long Island, and was a part of the aircrew’s refresher course for combat operations.
“This training is an investment by the Air Force into the men and women who routinely fly into dangerous areas during their missions,” said Kuhn. “By learning and refining these combat survival skills, our Airmen remain safer and more self-sufficient in a scenario that might leave them vulnerable if they were to be downed in an aircraft.”
Aircrew members covered several different training topics during their day such as water survival, environmental protection, raft living, personal protection, signaling and recovery, sustenance, travel, and health and welfare.
Capt. Jordan Hatfield, a pilot with the 137th AS, participated in the survival training.
“The best part about this training is being re-familiarized with the equipment and survival training,” said Hatfield. “Getting the opportunity to physically get into the rafts and put on the safety equipment helps us maintain confidence for our safety if something went wrong during a mission.”
This confidence was echoed by Master Sgt. Christopher Cummings, 137th AS aircrew training noncommissioned officer in charge, who coordinated the aircrew’s training for the day.
“This type of training gives pilots and the loadmasters the confidence that they can and will survive if a worst-case scenario happened,” said Cummings. “By completing this annual training requirement, aircrew members can execute the global mobility mission of Stewart Air National Guard Base.
Throughout the day, the training site was covered with shelters made with olive drab parachutes, burned wood from camp fires, bright yellow life preservers, and orange inflatable life rafts.
Kuhn started the morning by demonstrating different methods of building a shelter. Logs, sticks, rocks, leaves, and 550 cord were all used to create shelters that the aircrew members could use for safe havens.
Several factors had to be considered when making a shelter such as wooded versus desert, mountains versus flatland, proximity to bodies of water and escape routes. “Site selection is key,” Kuhn said.
Once all of the sharpened limbs were secured, fires extinguished, and foliage woven, aircrew members moved on to the escape phase.
“Every minute the enemy spends on hunting for our service members is another minute that wastes their time, energy, and resources,” Kuhn said.
Mud, leaves, insects, and debris covered the airmen’s flight suits as they ran through open fields to seek cover. They traversed mountain ridges to meet up with other teammates and reviewed navigation equipment to safely find their way back to a predetermined location.
For the final phase of training, the aircrew members took to the water. Airmen competed to don their emergency water survival equipment faster than their teammates to simulate stress and a sense of urgency.
“Link up, link up, link up,” was chanted by aircrew members wearing brightly colored yellow and orange inflatable life vests as they swam through the water in an attempt to jointly reach the inflatable raft that was floating in the Hudson River.
“There’s a great atmosphere of comradery and pride when you’re all in the water together,” said Hatfield. “Everyone has to work together to get through the event and survive.”
Once at the raft, the aircrew members were met by Kuhn who provided insight and guidance on staying alive while at sea.
The training event ended with aircrew members circled around a flag pole to recap the day with Kuhn. As the key points were highlighted and lesson objectives were summarized, the takeaway for the day was survival through preparedness, hard work and training.