How prepared are you to survive in the wilderness? Adjusting your mindset and plans to adapt to a new and harsh environment will undoubtedly be difficult.
However, getting yourself equipped with valuable skills will help you to overcome the challenges and even exploit the opportunity.
Instead of quitting, you will be able to survive. The SERE training will prepare you to bend where otherwise the obstacles would break you.
While SERE was originally developed for training Special Forces, it quickly gained recognition and is now being offered to civilians.
Many people who need to enhance their safety and want to prepare for situations such as urban terror, ransom, or kidnapping are already overbooking this course.
Traveling to different countries can also expose you to dangerous situations, thus it would be a great help if you master these skills.
Perhaps you have never heard of SERE and is still wondering what it’s all about. Well, you are in the right place to find out all you need to know. This comprehensive guide will help you get started if you wish to undertake SERE.
With that said, let’s get right into it!
A. What is SERE?
SERE is an abbreviation for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. The course is focused on preparing you on how to survive and evade with a blend of techniques on how to resist psychological torture and interrogations and how to escape capture by enemies.
Remember, all these events occur when you are at your weakest point: hungry, drained, and fatigued. Simply put it, if you are not strong enough, then you will find it quite challenging.
What is the origin of SERE Training Schools?
The course was initially developed to teach soldiers (under the department of defense civilians and military contractors) the basic skills to enable them to survive and evade capture by enemies and also maintain loyalty to the military code of conduct.
The program offered to civilians today is based on the knowledge and teaching methods applied in the US military. It is designed to teach military personnel, contractors, and defense employees the crucial survival skills and ways of evading capture.
Even though the course is most suitable for people exposed to a dangerous environment, the training is offered to all personnel, with more advanced training to professionals like combat pilots and Special Forces under higher risk.
Civilian schools such as Northwest Survival School and Sigma Survival School also use the same teaching methodology on SERE.
The programs were first introduced as a means of combating interrogation tactics used by the Chinese against captured American soldiers during the Korean War. Further adjustments were made in the training procedures based on the research findings of the CIA and the military involving training methods.
Most of the results from the studies were published and can now be obtained in the NSA archive document, the KUBARK counterintelligence interrogation paper.
The paper is ideally a guide on how to interrogate better in addition to the methods of identifying the interrogator’s mistakes.
While SERE schools and the methods employed in teaching are aimed at preparing people on survival skills and escape strategies, a lot of emphases is laid on maintaining a strong mindset and resisting interrogation (especially when you have a high chance of succumbing to pressure from the enemies).
It is important to understand that the teaching offered are aimed at building the trainees to resist and not to inflict torture on them.
LTC Nick Rowe is among the most significant makers of the current SERE skills. He is one of the 34 prisoners who managed to escape captivity from Viet Cong militants in the Vietnam War. What he went through is proof of the importance of mastering the basic tactics on survival and resistance in the training camps.
Nick’s story about his life in the wilderness is incredible. After being separated from his team Green Berets during the war in South Vietnam, LTC Rowe was captured and kept in a 3 x 4 x 6-foot bamboo cage.
The captivity that would last for 62 months was characterized by repeated torture and interrogations. His captors decided that he should be executed after discovering that LTC Rowe was a high-value target. However, he managed to overpower them and escape before signaling a US helicopter for rescue.
Such stories demonstrate how crucial SERE tactics and the whole training are to the trainees. Apart from preparing them to thrive in a capture situation or the risk to being captured, the training enables the students to gain more insights about themselves, to challenge themselves both physically and mentally, and be better in handling stressful situations.
What does SERE training involve?
If you are interested in going through this tough training, most modern schools split the teaching methodology into two broad categories, these are:
• Survival and evasion
• Resistance and escape
However, prior to starting the course, most SERE students begin with reading articles written by former POWs who were victims of torture from the captors during the Vietnam War and Korean War. LTC Nick Rowe’s story above is an example.
If you need a video that depicts the conditions during the SERE course, this video is a perfect representation of the extreme climatic conditions that the trainees survive and work in (they operate in other climates as well). It also shows the exhausting and stressful conditions that they are exposed to.
Here are some of the tactics to give you more insights about the harsh training that professionals go through. These skills also form a great part in the teaching curriculum for civilians.
B. Top 6 SERE Skills
1) Be Comfortable With the Basics
SERE training kicks off with lessons and experiences on surviving the outdoors. When learning this skill, you will be in the wild with just a few stuff in your pockets and water that you can carry. Most students who are staying in the field for a long time are equipped with a backpack containing essential supplies.
The trainees are expected to experience sleeplessness and hunger. This field application will cause extreme fatigue, thereby demonstrating a simulation of an actual SERE situation where they have to keep their mind sharp regardless of the prevailing conditions.
In order to survive in a hostile environment, you must first be comfortable with it; this enables you to focus on your task of staying alert and making sure that you restrict yourself to evasive and concealed movements only.
2) Make the wilderness your home
This forms a crucial part of training in SERE schools on how to survive in the wild. When you find yourself in a situation simulating capture and evasion, it is important to have some skills on how to exploit the environment to your benefit.
The SERE training school employs the help of specialist outdoorsmen who are experts in teaching tactics of survival in the wilderness. The instructions in field craft range from survival in various kinds of wilderness, and includes the following topics:
• How to navigate
• How to make small evasive fires
• How to obtain water and food
• How to construct an evasive shelter for warmth.
Here is a valuable US Army Survival training video that shows various vital skills for field survival when you find yourself in an area that is possibly controlled by the enemy.
3) Survival Gear Basics (SERE Kit)
Although the training is mostly focused on enabling you to use less equipment, it also instills the importance of preparation by having a small kit in your company anywhere you go.
Soldiers are given most of the items which are contained in the kit. You can also find many older makes of such SERE kits online.
Most of them consist of:
• Camo bandage and headscarf
• Water purification tablets
• Tinder cubes
• IR patches
• Signal mirror
• A tiny Leatherman (P4 Squirt)
• A handcuff key
• Small finger lights (IR and red light which are Velcro to your fingers)
• Waterproof match case that has a mirror on the inner side, matches, fire starter, flint striker, and button compass.
Most personnel also have necessities in their company such as water bottles, cooking equipment, and a KaBar knife. It is assumed that you already have these.
ESEE pocket survival kit is a civilian adaptation set that contains these items from ESEE survival, a survival knife manufacturer. This kit is trusted by many people due to the advanced equipment that it comes with – which are necessary for most SERE like circumstances.
The SERE gear is also comprised of crucial medical items for use in the wilderness like:
• Insect repellant
• Combat gauze/quick clot
• Sun cream
• Cyalume stick (chemlight)
• Anti-septic towelettes
4) Escape and evasion strategies from dogs
A dog can be a great friend but it can also be used against you. Dogs can be trained to track you for lengthy distances. This is why evasion tactics are covered in the SERE training.
In the field application, tracker dogs are used while the trainees employ the survival skills of navigation, and how to get water, food, and warmth as they track their way through the wilderness. Proper timing is also a key factor since it’s not just about survival but also about evasion.
Beating dogs in their tracking is not an easy task unlike what you might have seen in Hollywood films. The dogs don’t bark; they only run as they sniff and the only time the canines bark is when you are on sight. At this point, evading is quite tricky since your hideout is already revealed. In certain instances, a trainee woke up in his secret and well-hidden resting spot to the tongue of a captor’s dog licking his face. That was the end of the game!
What is the best trick to evade tracker dogs? Here are some tips on losing the scent used by the dog to track you:
• Make sure you are as far as possible from the dog.
• Travel through extreme terrain to strain the dog and the handler as well.
• Avoid crossing over water; dripping water possesses a strong scent.
• Collect the water that you have used washing your skin in a small bucket, make a tinny drip hole on the lower side, and attach it to a moving object such as a small raft made using sticks or vehicle to throw the scent away.
• Coat your body with petroleum jelly to avoid leaving any skin cell that could be used by the dog to trace you.
• When you can, safely crossing a river will confuse the trackers and their dogs. Certain survival schools advise trainees to also use a zip line for this.
• Make several large and sharp direction changes. This will make the handler doubt his tracker dog and give up.
• Move in the same direction with the wind to avoid getting your scent carried towards the tracker dog.
5) Why You Should Be Evasive
Regardless of the nature of the situation, be it civilian or military environment, having the ability to evade capture is essential. Apart from enhancing your safety, staying aware that you can be under captivity any moment should be your main concern.
Capture is one of the parts of the program in military training; it provides an opportunity to instill in you the elements of resistance that can’t be taught in class like survival methods and evasion skills.
When a soldier is captured by the enemy, there are three possibilities of what could happen: possible death, retention, or torture for information (when they don’t adhere to any UN treaties). However, the case for civilian capture is different; it could amount to interrogation, kidnapping, ransom, or terrorist acts.
Evasion could be the only solution to prevent these ordeals. For instance, in the case of LTC Rowe, evasion was quite crucial to save himself.
Evasion provides techniques suitable for the wilderness but for the urban environment as well. It is based on situational awareness and the ability to be highly alert in the environment you are in.
Former SERE trainees recall their evasion phase as having similarities to a game of hide and seek in the wild. According to Rick Campos, an ex-US navy special officer, the enemy came closer as the days went by.
Another challenge was hiding in open space; it forced them to send one of the members of their team to cross alone to the other side of the open space. The soldier would then give the rest of the team a signal and the members would move to the other side of the open space, one after another.
Here are some important tips on losing trackers:
• Find a herd of local animals such as cattle to walk over your tracks.
• Leave behind decoy tracks.
• Alter your running or walking gaits.
Creating false tracks and cutting them back on your original path will enable you to get behind the enemy. This technique is often used in urban surroundings to understand your tracker by following them (to gain insights), observe their patrol routine or path, and come up with an escape strategy.
Surveillance trainees and specialists in the urban environment can also benefit directly from this evasion technique. In a situation featuring more people, combined with the absence of empty spaces, evasion helps develop a new mindset that prioritizes thinking.
6) Resistance Requires Mental Strength
Resistance marks the end of the SERE program for trainees. In simple terms, resistance elements will test the mental capability of the students in applying the following six articles under the code of conduct:
• 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 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 a 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.
While these may sound easy, staying loyal to them is not. To begin with, the situation that you are in is marked by mental fatigue, thirst, lack of sleep, and starvation and you might have been physically hurt when you were escaping capture. Now imagine being promised warmth, food, and better conditions in exchange for information. Quite tempting, right?
You will then be subjected to the sounds of terrible songs playing loud for 24 hours – driving you to a breaking point. If a song was not used, they would play the sound of a small girl begging for her father to return home on a loudspeaker. The sound would play up to 3 days, although it might seem short, you will feel it’s like an eternity when there is no aspect of time.
That was an account from Brandon Webb’s account on the picture of SERE training from his book, “The Making of Navy Seal.”
Importance of SERE. Although most readers are not exposed to huge risks and might not find themselves in enemy lines; at some point, you might face challenges where the SERE skills are applicable. Here are examples of such scenarios obtained from real-world events. They illustrate how the skills acquired in SERE training can be useful to a civilian.
• You have visited an African country or the Middle East on your tours and you are kidnapped.
• You volunteer to work on any country in the world in your journalism profession and you are taken by terrorists such as ISIS.
• You get lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood and you need to secretly trace your way back safely without being noticed.
• Some people break into your house in the night and they hold you and your family as hostages while they perform a search on the house.
• As you finish packing your minivan with groceries, a car hijacker forces you inside and drives away with you and your child inside.
• While walking home from school, someone pushes you against the wall next to an alley and threatens you with a knife as he sexually assaults or robs you.
• A natural disaster occurs which exposes you and your family to dangerous people looking for supplies.
Kidnapping is one of the leading criminal enterprises across the world, with Americans as the prime targets. SERE skills could be very useful in scenarios mentioned above. Mastering how to operate in such situations is important in enhancing your safety.
Essential survival skills such as fire building, tracing your way out of strange places, and making shelter can be important in case you get lost or your car breaks down in an unfamiliar area. Knowing where to hide or how to avoid being seen will be helpful in avoiding detection and evading possible followers. The principles you will learn during the training will enable you to know how to behave in situations where someone wants to force you to do what you don’t want to do.
C. What kind of training is offered?
Even though each of the four subjects of SERE is important all on their own, all of them are related; the skills learned from one subject is useful in applying the other lesson. For instance, when trying to avoid recapture or evade detection, you will be applying survival techniques to survive on land and move at night until you arrive at your destination. When in resistance mode, you will also be applying escape skills to look for flaws in your captors and maximizing them for escape opportunities.
In order to gain these skills, you need to look for training and instructors offering a combination of lecture-based instructions, alongside techniques and skills in different training phases (and helpful feedback from the instructors). Before registering for any training, it is important to find out what the course is offering and check what topics they will teach you.
D. Where can I find SERE training?
Finding a course that covers all the four subjects of SERE within a few weeks or a few days is not easy. This is because time is limited and might not be enough to cover all the lessons and practical experience required. There are also challenges in finding qualified resistance training since only a few people are capable of delivering that subject. The risk of physical harm on the trainees is also another problem that makes most companies to reconsider if they should provide a certain type of training for fear of being held liable.
However, there are various schools that you can find online that offer some of the subjects covered in SERE. Most of them offer survival and evasion lessons, with only a few of them covering the resistance and escape part.
Here are some of the schools that offer the training:
1) Sigma 3 Survival
Sigma 3 survival school has been offering SERE courses with an emphasis on two components: urban and wilderness SERE courses (which used to take 5 days). Now, the course duration has been adjusted to last for 7 days- with added value to the training.
The wilderness training lessons encompass survival skills in the forest, where stealth and security are your main concerns. Each of the survival tactics emphasizes stealth. The urban part mostly covers surveillance, counter surveillance, travel plans, kidnapping, evasion, and urban escape, among others.
The school not only offer courses on wilderness and urban survival but also provides other kinds of training. They center the training on the skills that you want to learn and employs expert instructors to teach you. According to Rob, the founder, survival skills similar to martial arts are quite essential to anyone.
By committing yourself to master only a particular type of skill, you still remain weak in other areas. Survival skills are designed to enable you to survive in the wild; however, no one is expected to stay in the wild forever which makes it unwise to master a single skill.
This is why Sigma 3 survival school offers not only skills on surviving in the wilderness but also beneficial skills in your normal everyday life. Here is a rundown of the areas covered in the course:
• Wilderness and remote medical
• Home preparedness
• Scout sniper operations
• Tactical scout skill
• Wilderness survival and urban survival skills
• Military, combative, and law enforcement tactical training
• Complete SERE skills
• Small group personalized training or private lessons, arctic survival, jungle survival, firearms training, tracking, and many more.
Sigma 3 survival school offers a new perspective to people who were made to believe that the SERE training program is dangerous.
They assure you that most parts of the course is actually exciting and fun learning, not as difficult as you might be thinking. A phase that most people are scared of is the interrogation, which is optional in the school and you don’t need to cover it if you don’t want to.
You don’t have to be afraid of the interrogation phase since it only lasts for 2 hours (out of 7 days of training). If you choose to go through resistance phase then you should expect to be maced, stun gunned, and made to go through harsh treatments.
However, when you are done with this phase, you are certainly going to be proud of yourself for surviving and escaping custody with much ease. During the training, you will be taken through lessons involving escaping rope, duct tape, zip ties, handcuffs, and much more. You will be taught how to beat anything that might be used by your captors against you.
Whether you are currently traveling the world (or looking forward to traveling at some point), you need to master the skills on escape and evasion. This is why this training is quite appropriate for you. The course will only last for 7 days, and when the training ends, you will have more confidence in yourself which will help you survive in any challenging survival situations. Check out this link to discover more information on how you can enroll for SERE training.
2) Northwest Survival School
If you need high-quality training with personal instructors, then Northwest survival school is a great place to try. The school offers all lessons on survival – across all ages – with a 1-day, 2-day, 3-day plan, and kids/parents survival training; alongside custom classes and dates if you need them. The self-reliance outdoor school is specialized in training nearly anyone who needs the skills.
The school is situated at Spokane Washington and has been offering a training program for over 30 years. With the wealth of experience that they have amassed over the years, you can be sure of getting the best instructions and training possible.
The course involves taking expeditions to great places such as the mountains of Montana, cascade mountain range, and other destinations that will enable you to practice your skills in real life situations. The training grounds are spread across Northwest and around Eastern Washington as well. In short, the training is offered on nearly every environment that you will possibly encounter.
Here are the offers you will get from the school as a trainee:
• Highly experienced, certified, and qualified instructors in wilderness survival training
• Training in the best learning environments for practical lessons
• First responder education/wilderness first aid
• Certified training covering all areas of wilderness survival
• Training is available regardless of age
• Customized courses to suit your needs
• Minimum of 5 students per group for special pricing. To find out more about Northwest survival school, check out this link
3) Guardian International Security Services
Guardian international security services offer a SERE program which includes the essential survivals skills that facilitate search and rescue efforts as you evade capture by enemies, hostile groups, or individuals.
The skills are derived and they inculcate the values contained in the code of conduct with a balance of appropriate educational methodology and real-life stressful training scenarios. The training lasts for 10 days with no room for luxury.
The curriculum is based on the military SERE training with some elements reduced due to confidentiality, but they do not affect the quality of the training offered.
Tactical survival is quite different from the challenges encountered for basic survival. This is why this skill is very crucial alongside mastery of other skills during the training; you don’t want to miss this as it is paramount for survival.
It is a fact that the world is always changing and humans are exposed to more danger like never before – country instability, terrorism, economic breakdowns, and natural disasters, among others. Therefore, learning useful skills should be a priority.
The program will teach you the necessary survival basics.. The training is one of the toughest that you will come across, which makes it closely resemble real-life scenarios.
First, you will be taught all the lessons on important elements, you will be exposed to different scenarios, you will be held in captivity, and lastly, you will be required to escape. When on the run, you will be tracked and hunted, and this situation demands that you employ skills to enable you to evade recapture until you arrive at the extraction point.
Unlike other courses with TV programs tailored to entertain the audience, this training program is different. You will also be equipped with counter tactics techniques to help you avoid becoming a victim. Most of the skills are applicable if you end up kidnapped, trapped in a hostile country, or during an economic breakdown.
4) S.S.F.N. – S.E.R.E. School
This school also emphasizes mastering basic survival skills. Like the majority of SERE programs, this course is focused on survival and evasion techniques.
These comprise of emergency first aid skills, battlefield skills, navigation in the wild, hiding techniques, communication protocols, methods of evasion, and how to use the tools around you to your advantage.
The duration of the course varies depending on the nature of the training involved. It is divided into three parts which are:
I. S.E.R.E. 3 DAYS – Basic Survival Program
The program is centered on non-gear survival training. This means that the only gear that the trainees are allowed to have is their knives. They are then required to survive in the wild with the basic skills that they have been taught using the limited resource they have.
II. S.E.R.E. 5 DAYS- Advanced Survival Program
This course is also centered on non-gear survival training but without a gear this time. Students are required to improvise anything they need in order to survive. They can set deadly traps and hunt big game animals as they try to find rescue using only their map and compass.
III. S.E.R.E. 7 DAYS- Advanced Environment Swap Program
This course is relatively more difficult and is also centered on non-gear survival training. The trainees are captured and held captives in urban areas. They are required to come up with an escape plan. They must escape and navigate as they improvise tools to help them survive. Fighting is also involved since they are being pursued by special operation units.
The objectives of the training programs are to:
• Qualify and train students on how to survive on the battlefield
• Train units to be independent when conducting their tasks in different environments with no support in terms of food, water, and any other equipment
• Train students the necessary survival skills that will enable to get solutions in difficult situations
• Equip trainees with survival skills and use them in rescue and search operations
• Train students on how to avoid being captured; as well as teaching them in the areas of evading capture, resisting, and escaping
Objectives of special training:
• Checking trainee’s qualification
• Checking trainee’s physical and psychological state
• Monitoring individual performance in difficult situations
• Nurturing self-confidence and psychological stability
• Equipping students with trust and awareness
• Upgrading trainee’s independence in difficult scenarios
E. How to Find An Instructor
Survival skills are important in any SERE situation, whether you are a military personnel or a civilian. This is because there is a high chance that you will be providing water, food, shelter, and navigation all on your own.
In order to obtain effective training, it means that you should find the correct instructor – which could be difficult. Many training schools offer common lessons on escape and evasion subjects to strengthen their survival courses.
Other subjects provided in most training are resistance and escape, but instead of employing real-life resistance and evasion training, the trainees are just subjected to a bullying session.
You should search for programs with instructors who have real-world experience and have a curriculum that is centered on practical experiences. Professionalism is the key to success of the course.
Going through the reviews and comments about the courses and the schools that you consider will give you heads up on what to expect before committing your time and spending your money.
It is important to know how to manage yourself when encountering difficult situations. However, most people never apply resistance in real life, but one can still benefit from mastering other skills. What is important is the mental strength that is developed during the course which is quite beneficial for survival and managing difficult situations.
The stressful situation that students are subjected to during the SERE training is the best way to know more about yourself, your weaknesses, and strengths. According to Maj
Anthony Hanson, a U.S army SERE school commander at Fort Rucker, the stress tailored to each soldier is what makes SERE exceptional. Despite the soldier’s background, the training methodology maximizes his or her flaws in order to impart an extreme amount of stress effectively and safely.
Mastering map reading and communication skills are one of the most important parts of SERE. These skills will increase your chances of escaping in unfamiliar territory.
In summary, carefully decide on which parts of SERE you need to learn. Look for a good instructor and challenge yourself by making sure that you come out more prepared at the end of the training compared to when it began.
The importance of mastering SERE skills should not be underestimated in today’s world. Although you are not frequently exposed to danger like military personnel, you might eventually find yourself in such a situation that calls for the application of these skills.
The techniques will help you to survive until you can get help. This guide provides you with all the basic information that you need to know before diving into SERE.
So, if your personal security is your primary concern, then you shouldn’t hesitate to enroll in one of the schools offering this program.
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