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Kadena warrior wins SERE NCO of the Year award

KADENA Air Base, Japan -- As warfighters, Air Force members are trained in many areas of combat skills ranging from self-aid and buddy care to chemical warfare. However, pilots, aircrews and personnel considered, “high risk of capture” are given extra training unique to their jobs by a small group of individuals. 

These individuals make up the 325 members of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape career field. One of these specialists is a Kadena Shogun and the recipient of the 2006 Air Force SERE NCO of the year award. 

Staff Sgt. Edmund M. Dawejko, a member of the 18th Operations Support Squadron, has been training pararescue jumpers, combat rescue officers, combat controllers and tactical air control parties on how to survive in different climatic conditions and how to survive while being held captive for nearly eight years. He says there’s no other job he would want to do more in the Air Force except for being a pilot. 

“We prepare the warfighter for what happens when things go wrong and they find themselves behind enemy lines,” Sergeant Dawejko said. “We are an integral part of the wing’s preparation for all personnel recovery.” 

Because of his dedication to his job and the people he teaches survival training to, his supervisor and commander nominated him as the SERE NCO of the year for wing and major command level. After winning at both levels, he was nominated for Air Force level.
Sergeant Dawejko has taught 62 combat and water survival training lessons. He rebuilt the Code of Conduct training syllabus and developed a high risk of capture environment survival course as well as four recovery scenarios for deployed U.S. Navy rescue teams. He also assisted the 33rd Rescue Squadron on a short-notice tsunami relief deployment and aided with the deployment of four helicopters and 50 people to Pakistan to provide relief aid to earthquake victims. 

“The biggest thing I get out of my job is knowing that I’ve done everything I can to make sure that personnel recovery is trained, planned and executed as best it can be,” he said. “We do as much for the warfighters as we can to make sure they can survive and evade behind enemy lines, be successful and return with honor.” 

On any given day, Sergeant Dawejko can be working on training ranging from water survival to emergency parachute procedures. This not only happens with Air Force members, but is extended to the Army, Navy and Marines as well. 

“It’s great to see when different branches of the armed forces come together and execute personnel recovery, because we know that our pilots and aircrew are in good hands if something ever happens to them,” he said. 

When not out training with aircrews and rescue personnel, Sergeant Dawejko dedicates his time to the local schools, charity and church. He supervised a Kadena seniors’ all-night alcohol-free graduation celebration for 132 graduates and tutored fifth-graders in math. 

He also helped raise nearly $1,800 during an 18th OSS Air Force Aid Society fundraiser and volunteered at a local church’s Sunday School program. 

“Since the moment Sergeant Dawejko joined Team Kadena, he has shown an outstanding work ethic,” said Tech. Sgt. Riley C. Cottingham, NCO in charge of SERE Operations. He is truly self motivated and one of the most competent SERE specialists I’ve worked with.” 

According to the SERE website, The Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape [SERE] specialist career field was activated in 1947 when Gen. Curtis LeMay, the commander of Strategic Air Command, created the first survival training program at Marks Air Force Base, Alaska. 

SERE specialists are comprised of a small specialized careerfield in the Air Force who train members from all branches of the military on how to survive in all environments and conditions.