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SERE instructors ensure water survival skills

HICKAM AFB  -  U.S. Air Force Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Specialist Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown briefs aircrew from Hickam AFB, Hawaii on proper procedures when throwing an anchor from their raft during refresher water survival training on April 6, 2009. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown, a U.S. Air Force survival, evasion, resistance, escape specialist, briefs aircrew members from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, on proper procedures when throwing an anchor from their raft during refresher water survival training April 6. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

HICKAM AFB  -  U.S. Air Force SERE instructor Tech. SGt. Sherwood Brown prepares members of the Hickam AFB, Hawaii flying community for refresher water survival training on April 6, 2009. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

Survival, evasion, resistance, escape, or SERE instructor Tech. SGt. Sherwood Brown prepares members of the Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, flying community for refresher water survival training April 6. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

HICKAM AFB  -  U.S. Air Force Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Specialist Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown briefs an aircrew member on the correct way to swim under a parachute canopy during refresher water survival training on April 6, 2009 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam AFB, Hawaii . (U.S.  Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown, U.S. Air Force survival, evasion, resistance, escape specialist, briefs an aircrew member on the correct way to swim under a parachute canopy during refresher water survival training April 6 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii . (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

HICKAM AFB  -  U.S. Air Force Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Specialist Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown instructs aircrew members on the proper way to pull other crew members out of the ocean and into the raft during refresher water survival training on April 6, 2009 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam AFB, Hawaii . (U.S.  Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown, U.S. Air Force survival, evasion, resistance, escape specialist, instructs aircrew members on the proper way to pull other crew members out of the ocean and into a raft during refresher water survival training April 6 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii . (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

HICKAM AFB  -  U.S. Air Force Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Specialist Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown instructs aircrew members on the proper way to pull other crew members out of the ocean and into the raft during refresher water survival training on April 6, 2009 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam AFB, Hawaii . (U.S.  Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

Tech. Sgt. Sherwwod Brown, survival, evasion, resistance, escape specialist, instructs aircrew members on the proper way to pull other crew members out of the ocean and into a raft during refresher water survival training April 6 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii . (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

HICKAM AFB  -  U.S. Air Force SERE instructor Tech. SGt. Sherwood Brown prepares members of the Hickam AFB, Hawaii flying community for refresher water survival training on April 6, 2009. (U.S.  Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown, 15th Operational Support Squadron SERE instructor, prepares members of the Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, flying community for refresher water survival training April 6. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

HICKAM AFB  -  U.S. Air Force Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Specialist Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown of the 15th Operations Support Squadron, 15th Airlift Wing monitors the progression of Capt. George Adam,s a C-17 pilot assigned to the 535th Airlift Squadron as he attempts to inflate various sections of his one-man life raft during refresher water survival training on April 6, 2009 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam AFB, Hawaii . (U.S.  Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

U.S. Air Force survival, evasion, resistance, escape specialist Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown of the 15th Operations Support Squadron at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, monitors the progression of Capt. George Adams, 535th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot, as he attempts to inflate various sections of his one-man life raft during refresher water survival training April 6 while in the waters adjacent to Hickami. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

HICKAM AFB  -  U.S. Air Force Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Specialist Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown (left) of the 15th Operations Support Squadron, 15th Airlift Wing informs a crew member  on what it will feel like when he's  pulled through the water by a jet ski which will simulate a parachute being caught in the wind during refresher water survival training on April 6, 2009 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam AFB, Hawaii . (U.S.  Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown (left), a 15th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance, escape specialist, informs a crew member on what it will feel like when he's pulled through the water by a jet ski which will simulate a parachute being caught in the wind during refresher water survival training April 6 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii . (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

HICKAM AFB  -  U.S. Air Force Survival Evasion Resistance Escape Specialist Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown (left) of the 15th Operations Support Squadron, 15th Airlift Wing informs a crew member  on what it will feel like when he's  pulled through the water by a jet ski which will simulate a parachute being caught in the wind during refresher water survival training on April 6, 2009 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam AFB, Hawaii . (U.S.  Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown (left), a U.S. Air Force survival, evasion, resistance, escape specialist, informs a crew member on what it will feel like when he's pulled through the water by a jet ski which will simulate a parachute being caught in the wind during refresher water survival training April 6 while in the waters adjacent to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii --  A sudden jump into the ocean after an airplane malfunction could leave a person confused and helpless, but the chances of survival can greatly increase if that person has attended water survival training at Survival Evasion Resistance Escape School at McChord AFB, Wash. or Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla.

The training gives crews the skills needed to survive in case of a water landing, said Tech. Sgt. Sherwood Brown, a 14-year SERE specialist assigned to the 15th Operational Support Squadron here.

"Failure to prepare is preparing to fail," said Sergeant Brown. "We prepare crews to not only use the skills we teach them, but the equipment that the government gives them so that they can save their lives."

As an instructor, he provides refresher training to aircrews to ensure they are current and prepared in case of an emergency.

"We get this training every two years and it's good to know what to do in case we ever did go down," said Capt. George Adams, 535th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot.

In case of an in-flight emergency that a plane could not recover from, the crew would bail out. Upon entering the water, they would immediately enter a life raft and make sure everyone is accounted for. The crew must prepare the raft for whatever obstacle they may encounter, such as rough seas, which would require everyone to tie themselves into the raft and strap down gear to ensure crew members and equipment don't spill over.

Sergeant Brown ensures the crews are ready for such obstacles by taking them out to Honeycomb Beach here. Crewmembers are isolated in one-on-one scenarios as well as group scenarios, which go a long way toward ensuring their safety should they ever have to enter the water in an emergency.

One-on-one scenarios require a member to lift himself into a one-person raft and identify three points of air entry to inflate the sides. This allows protection from the elements as well as establishing a certain level of comfort.

Individuals also must follow a parachute line under water that will guide them into a clear area, which simulates the experience of being caught under a parachute while in the water. And the final refresher is being dragged by a jet ski through the water that mimics the feeling of the wind catching the canopy of a member's parachute and dragging the person through water.

Sergeant Brown enforces the "Five A's" during the training: air for the raft, assist others, throw out the anchor, pull in the accessory kit and then analyze the situation.

"It all organizes them so they can do everything step-by-step in order to survive," said Sergeant Brown.

The crewmembers enjoy the training and get a lot out of it.

"It's good to actually get away from the Powerpoint slides and do the actual hands on," Capt. John Brantuk, a C-17 pilot assigned to the 535th Airlift Squadron. "This is fun."

Sergeant Brown's job is a unique one in which he says he hopes his students never have to use what they've learned. He is rewarded with a satisfaction when past students have encountered real-world scenarios and later thanked him for that training that saved their lives.
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