A deep dive into the Rally in the Pacific 2023 water survival training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Timothy Leddick
  • 934th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Along the shores of ‘Alula Beach in Kailua, Hawaii, during exercise Rally in the Pacific 2023, Airmen from across various units within the U.S. Air Force Reserve take part in a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) water survival training course.

RITP23 takes place in the Indo-Pacific region and involves more than 15 units across the joint force. It is an Agile Combat Employment exercise, a foundational competency and operational scheme executed within threat timelines to increase survivability, generate combat power and support the development of multi-capable Airmen.

SERE water survival is one instance of the exercise utilizing ACE and the multi-capable Airmen concept.

Volunteer Airmen in full uniform swim from the shoreline in life jackets toward a 20-person raft and hoist themselves on board. After some time at sea and successfully assembling and disassembling a canopy for shade from weather elements, the Airmen then swam back to shore. The objective of this training is to ensure survival capabilities for long-term isolation.

“This doesn’t even have to involve combat,” said Master Sgt. Andrew Blake, a 934th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist. “Members could be isolated because logistics have broken down somewhere and now they have to sustain themselves. Our goal is to provide that capability because most of these Airmen don’t get that training; it’s usually only for certain jobs.”

The Airmen were familiarized with many skills and types of equipment, such as water procurement methods, the raft accessory kit and a more efficient way to swim that utilizes less energy and maintains accountability of crew called “chaining up.” In this chain formation, members link together and paddle in unison as if creating their own rowboat.
“Water survival training is beneficial and gives them the ability to see what some of our [aircrew] are able to do,” said Master Sgt. James Wilson, a 934 OSS SERE specialist. “Our expectations were to get them in there, get them familiar and get them confident in the water in any event of a ditching at sea.”

Because this training is a first for many of these Airmen, there were varying levels of experience and expectations leading up to and following the course.

“Initially I was nervous because I know SERE goes through a lot of rigorous training, and I’m not the best swimmer,” said Staff Sgt. Nina Spratt, a 94th Force Support Squadron services specialist. “Our SERE instructors were very reassuring and guided us through the end.”

A 20-person raft has a designated boarding ramp with handholds to lift oneself. While on the raft, Airmen scooped water out using collapsible buckets stored on board. Afterward they reviewed the survival kit attached by lanyard and retrieved by hand, which included water and food kits, a water purifier, sea dye and signaling and communication devices.

Following the course, the RITP23 Airmen involved feel more confident and ready for a water survival scenario with the knowledge and skill sets of techniques and equipment taken away.

“Thinking of the area of operations we might be in in the future with a near-peer adversary — everything’s kind of pointing to this region,” said Wilson. “There’s a lot that could happen with aircrew or a forward operating post in an isolated area such as resupply routes getting obstructed or a hindrance in communication. So, we train like we fight.”