SERE training develops leaders for complex environment

By Capt. Erik Olsen, Resistance Training Officer in Charge, U.S. Army Survival Evasion Resistance and EscapeNovember 21, 2014

SERE training develops leaders for complex environment
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FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 21, 2014) -- Faced with an ever-evolving and dynamic operational environment, the Army must produce small unit leaders capable of making independent tactical decisions.

High-risk training conducted at the U.S. Army Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape School at Fort Rucker trains Soldiers to survive in isolation, making them a less vulnerable target to the enemy.

"SERE-C training positively impacts the Army's operational and strategic level personnel recovery mission to ensure mission success and bring everyone home with honor," said Lt. Col. Marcus Gengler, commander, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Brigade.

Army SERE Level C encompasses full-spectrum training including academics and resistance training labs.

The SERE-C training provides a unique opportunity to teach Soldiers adaptive leadership skills to be employed in complex operational environments.

"What makes SERE school so unique is the stress tailored to the individual Soldier. Regardless of a Soldier's background, the SERE-C training approach exploits his or her weakness in order to induce the most amount of stress safely and effectively," said Maj. Anthony Hanson, commander, U.S. Army SERE School at Fort Rucker.

Soldiers are able to apply leadership in a variety of scenarios ranging from a classroom academic laboratory setting to a field survival environment and escape and evasion situations.

Leaders practice covert leadership to organize and resist in the hands of the enemy role-play instructors.

In Army training such as Ranger School, food and sleep deprivation are used to simulate the stressors of hostile situations. While this approach is highly effective, SERE-C goes even further to truly train for a worst-case isolation event. It is in this arena the U.S. Army SERE School separates itself. The SERE-C training environment stresses Soldiers in controlled, safe, but highly realistic ways. These stresses focus heavily on the psychological side, while still not easing up on the lack of food or sleep.

During certain phases, SERE-C training utilizes food and sleep as an additional challenge leaders need to manage effectively. For example, will the leader take time to hunt and gather food, and possibly improve energy and morale of his troops, or is it more important to push through and move to the designated recovery area?

At the same time, leaders must remain conscious of the non-permissive environment and not get captured by the Army of opposing forces searching for them in the woods.

These varying and dynamic leadership problem sets provide the best individual and group leadership training to prepare Soldiers for the complex operating environment.

Building trust among subordinates can be a difficult task for new leaders to accomplish when first assigned to a new unit. Through high-stress situations and shared hardships, the U.S. Army SERE School guides new leaders to learn the importance of earning teammate and subordinate trust at the tactical level.

The U.S. Army SERE School emphasizes the Code of Conduct in depth, making it the focal point of the course. Signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955, the Code of Conduct is an ethical guide on how military personnel should act when evading capture, resisting while a Prisoner of War or escaping from the enemy. It requires Soldiers to keep faith with fellow prisoners, and when senior to take charge. Students learn that establishing trust through leadership actions, personal integrity and shared hardship provides the cohesion needed to effectively survive and return with honor.

By regulation, SERE-C school at Fort Rucker is required for all officers who have branched Aviation, prior to attending flight school, unless they have already attended another level-C SERE school.

The three week course provides a leadership foundation that leaders of all branches can benefit from.

The bottom line is better trained leaders.

"The result of the SERE experience is more agile and adaptive leaders, less vulnerable targets for our enemies to exploit, and an invaluable skill set that gives our Soldiers the ability to survive and return with honor," Hanson said.

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