TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
As one thinks about the hundreds of careers in the U.S. Air Force, from aircraft maintainer to security forces specialist to critical care nurse, one vital job may elude them, Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan Buchanan, 325th Operations Support Squadron NCO in-charge of SERE operations and training, is one of two SERE specialists stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base.
“The main role of a SERE specialist is to train personnel that are deemed as a high risk of isolation,” said Buchanan. “High risk of isolation personnel are usually individuals such as pilots or aircrew; really anyone that flies in an aircraft for their regular duties. Special operations personnel are on this list as well and often receive the training prior to a deployment.”
The SERE specialists at Tyndall have the special duty of ensuring that all qualifying personnel keep their training up-to-date and refreshed. This includes making sure that pilots are qualified to deploy.
“We support pilots and flyers from all the units on Tyndall,” said Buchanan. “We make sure they remember their training if they were ever put in a situation where they’d need to utilize it.”
Because much of the aircraft training that takes place on Tyndall occurs over the Gulf of Mexico, water survival can be a big concern for pilots and aircrew.
“If something were to go wrong with any mission and they have to eject over water, our goal is for the aircrew’s water survival training to kick-in like muscle memory,” said Buchanan. “We train them to be ready to know how to land with their parachute, what to do in case of high winds and even how to live in their life raft for an extended amount of time.”
Tyndall’s SERE specialist also take a large role in organizing special survival and evasion exercises.
“We’re able to coordinate with other units during large scale exercises such as Stealth Guardian and we have a role during events such as Checkered Flag,” said Buchanan. “These can take months of coordination, but have a huge payoff for keeping our guys ready for anything.”
Buchanan commented on what it was like to work on Tyndall with other Airmen from varying Air Force Specialty Codes.
“One of my favorite things about SERE is the latitude at which we’re able to operate,” he said. “We’re able to work with anyone and usually all the supporting agencies on base are willing to help us out. The bottom line is that we’re only two guys and we can’t make a lot of these exercises and training happen without the help of other agencies on Tyndall.”