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Senior Airman Joseph Collett, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor, teaches the 'bird's nest' technique of building a fire by igniting a small piece of flammable material with flint rocks and placing it inside a 'nest' of weeds while blowing air into the nest to help the flame grow.
U.S. Air Force photo by
Tech. Sgt. Bennie Davis
The Perfect Edge

by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Bates
Tech. Sgt. Bennie Davis
Andrew Arthur Breese

It was June 1995, and then-Capt. Scott O'Grady was tired, hungry and alone. A few days earlier, his F-16 Fighting Falcon was shot down over Bosnia, and he'd spent the last 48 hours or so on the move, evading Serbian paramilitary forces that were looking for him.

He eluded capture for six days in the Bosnian countryside, drinking rain water and eating plants and bugs. O'Grady finally made radio contact with friendly forces and was rescued by a group of Marines that took him out of Bosnia at dawn of his sixth day on the run.

"He survived on what he brought with him from home: lots of courage and training," said Adm. Leighton Smith, then the commander of NATO's Southern Command, during a press conference after O'Grady's rescue. "Whatever else he had, he had a lot of guts to go with it."

What O'Grady also had were survival skills learned during a nearly three-week course at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Called Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, or SERE, the course teaches aircrew members of every service how to survive on their own in any environment, should their plane go down. "Basically, we give them skills and tools they can use to build shelters, forage their own food and water and evade capture," said Senior Airman Joseph Collett, a SERE specialist.

Survival, evasion, resistance and escape students build fires while learning to create improvised shelters in the mountains of the Colville National Forest SERE training site. Students will be taught the means to survive and then will be released into the woods to evade capture and use their newly learned skills. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)U.S. Air Force survival, evasion, resistance and escape students use evasion methods in a simulated training environment to teach them to escape capture during SERE training at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)Survival, evasion, resistance and escape students struggle to get each other inside a 20-man raft while being hosed down with high powered water hoses during a simulated severe storm water egress during the water survival portion of SERE training at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III)
"Ultimately, the goal is to survive, elude capture and get rescued," Senior Airman Joseph Collett said. "We give students a taste of what to expect in captivity and teach them how to deal with it mentally and physically."
U.S. Air Force photo by
Tech. Sgt. Bennie Davis
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