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612th AOC trains SERE specialists in C2 of personnel recovery

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape experts from the 612th Air Operations Center here hosted a Personnel Recovery (PR) command and control course for 7-level upgrade training of SERE specialists from around the Air Force. 

Master Sgt. Jesse Arnold of the Air Forces Southern Personnel Recovery Coordination Cell created and taught the course, drawing on his real-world experience to give students a glimpse of how an actual rescue would be performed in a combat environment. 

The 7-level upgrade is conducted in three parts in Spokane, Wash., Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and Honduras. Sergeant Arnold, the Air Combat Command 2008 SERE Specialist of the Year, created the C2 course last year for students, and its success prompted officials from Air Education and Training Command Survival School to adopt it again this year. 

"It's a basic introduction to the command and control elements of PR in an Air and Space Operations Center," Sergeant Arnold said. "There are a lot of moving pieces during a PR event; it's essentially a coordination game between the Joint Personnel Recovery Center and all the other players executing and supporting the PR operation. The key take-away I try to instill to the students is communication." 

The academic portion of PR C2 training wrapped up with a virtual exercise. Sergeant Arnold, a 19-year SERE Specialist, anticipated the actions of students when constructing the exercise, and created mock Air Tasking Orders, possible threats, and even simulated weather overlays. The Combined Air Operations Center here, and all of the collaborative communication tools within it, was made available during the exercise to enhance the realism. 

"I taught them how to use all the tools and products currently used in personnel recovery," he said. "You want as much realism as possible to prepare the students for what they might experience later in their careers. Arguably, this is the type of training they need the most. In real-world operations, you might not have a lot of assets, so you must coordinate with other units to avoid redundant actions. Clear, concise communication is key." 

To further educate trainees, A-10 and HH-60 pilots briefed on their role in personnel recovery. A-10s primarily perform a close air support role, but during Combat Search and Rescue operations, they have a very important secondary role as "Sandy 1," the lead in synchronizing recovery assets, locating downed aircrew, and securing, validating, and coordinating rescue of personnel in hostile areas. The A-10 and helicopter pilots explained their roles and responsibilities when conducting a rescue and also detailed the critical role SERE specialists play during these types of missions. 

The C2 training is currently being considered for permanent inclusion in the curriculum for SERE 7-level upgrade training.

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