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Team Dover Airmen survive land and water training

Capt. Rob Willoughby, 9th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy pilot, applies camouflage paint to his face during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. Willoughby was part of a five-man team that was evading enemy forces after being captured in the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Capt. Rob Willoughby, 9th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy pilot, applies camouflage paint to his face during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. Willoughby was part of a five-man team that was evading enemy forces after being captured in the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

An American flag flying on the beach partially frames a U.S. Coast Guard HH-65D Dolphin helicopter that practices hoisting members of the 436th and 512th Airlift Wings from the Delaware Bay during water survival refresher training conducted by the 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del.  Team Dover C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17A Globemaster III aircrew are required to undergo refresher training every three years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

An American flag flying on the beach partially frames a U.S. Coast Guard HH-65D Dolphin helicopter that practices hoisting members of the 436th and 512th Airlift Wings from the Delaware Bay during water survival refresher training conducted by the 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Team Dover C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17A Globemaster III aircrew are required to undergo refresher training every three years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Senior Airman Leo Avila, 709th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy engineer, left, and Senior Airman Dan Bates, 9th AS C-5M loadmaster, right, use a compass and a map to navigate to a checkpoint during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. Avila and Bates navigated with three other members of their team through several miles of forest to be rescued by friendly forces after escaping from enemy combatants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Senior Airman Leo Avila, 709th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy engineer, left, and Senior Airman Dan Bates, 9th AS C-5M loadmaster, right, use a compass and a map to navigate to a checkpoint during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. Avila and Bates navigated with three other members of their team through several miles of forest to be rescued by friendly forces after escaping from enemy combatants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

A U.S. Coast Guard HH-65D Dolphin helicopter practices hoisting U.S. Air Force aircrew members while a Coast Guard rescue swimmer prepares the next student, who was just moved in to position by Staff Sgt. Adam Ellerd, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations NCO in charge, using a personal watercraft July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. The HH-65D is based at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

A U.S. Coast Guard HH-65D Dolphin helicopter practices hoisting U.S. Air Force aircrew members while a Coast Guard rescue swimmer prepares the next student, who was just moved in to position by Staff Sgt. Adam Ellerd, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations NCO in charge, using a personal watercraft July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. The HH-65D is based at Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Senior Airman Dan Bates, 9th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, checks a path for enemy forces before crossing during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The refresher survival training is required to be completed every three years by aircrew members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Senior Airman Dan Bates, 9th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, checks a path for enemy forces before crossing during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The refresher survival training is required to be completed every three years by aircrew members. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Staff Sgt. Adam Ellerd, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations NCO in charge, operates a personal watercraft to position aircrew for their next training event on the Delaware Bay July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Aircrew bob in the water behind the watercraft as they gain confidence using their survival equipment in open water. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Staff Sgt. Adam Ellerd, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations NCO in charge, operates a personal watercraft to position aircrew for their next training event on the Delaware Bay July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Aircrew bob in the water behind the watercraft as they gain confidence using their survival equipment in open water. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Senior Airman Leo Avila, 709th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy engineer, left, Capt. Rob Willoughby, 9th AS C-5M pilot, center, and Maj. Brian Hint, 709th AS C-5M pilot, right, look at GPS coordinates before radioing in their location to friendly rescue forces during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The crew was required to evade enemy forces while maintaining radio communications with rescue personnel during the training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Senior Airman Leo Avila, 709th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy engineer, left, Capt. Rob Willoughby, 9th AS C-5M pilot, center, and Maj. Brian Hint, 709th AS C-5M pilot, right, look at GPS coordinates before radioing in their location to friendly rescue forces during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The crew was required to evade enemy forces while maintaining radio communications with rescue personnel during the training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Technical Sgt. Jason Massey, 3d Airlift Squadron C-17A Globemaster III loadmaster, smiles after successfully completing a water survival refresher training event in the Delaware Bay in a class conducted by the 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations, July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del.  The C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17A Globemaster III aircrew of the 436th Airlift Wing and the 512th Airlift Wing completed the training which is required every three years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Technical Sgt. Jason Massey, 3d Airlift Squadron C-17A Globemaster III loadmaster, smiles after successfully completing a water survival refresher training event in the Delaware Bay in a class conducted by the 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations, July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. The C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17A Globemaster III aircrew of the 436th Airlift Wing and the 512th Airlift Wing completed the training which is required every three years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Senior Airman Leo Avila, 709th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy engineer, uses coordinates to mark his crew’s position on a map during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The crew was equipped with a compass and a map to navigate several miles of woodland and marshy terrain during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Senior Airman Leo Avila, 709th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy engineer, uses coordinates to mark his crew’s position on a map during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The crew was equipped with a compass and a map to navigate several miles of woodland and marshy terrain during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Technical Sgt. Joseph Monreal, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations flight chief, right, and water survival training students hold a C-9 round parachute canopy with orange and white panels above their heads as they prepare to walk it in to the water of the Delaware Bay without it becoming tangled during aircrew water survival refresher training July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Once the canopy was in the water each student had a chance to gain confidence in their ability to get out from under a water soaked canopy by following a seam to the edges. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis))
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Technical Sgt. Joseph Monreal, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations flight chief, right, and water survival training students hold a C-9 round parachute canopy with orange and white panels above their heads as they prepare to walk it in to the water of the Delaware Bay without it becoming tangled during aircrew water survival refresher training July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Once the canopy was in the water each student had a chance to gain confidence in their ability to get out from under a water soaked canopy by following a seam to the edges. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis))

An aircrew follows a creek while navigating and evading enemy forces during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The aircrew had to navigate through several miles of forest while trying to evade enemy forces to be rescued by friendly personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)
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An aircrew follows a creek while navigating and evading enemy forces during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The aircrew had to navigate through several miles of forest while trying to evade enemy forces to be rescued by friendly personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Technical Sgt. Joseph Monreal, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations flight chief, watches as a trainee uses a seam in a C-9 round parachute canopy to move from one edge to the other during aircrew water survival refresher training in the Delaware Bay July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Aircrew members of the 436th Airlift Wing, 512th Airlift Wing which operate the C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17A Globemaster III, participated in the required refresher training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)
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Technical Sgt. Joseph Monreal, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations flight chief, watches as a trainee uses a seam in a C-9 round parachute canopy to move from one edge to the other during aircrew water survival refresher training in the Delaware Bay July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Aircrew members of the 436th Airlift Wing, 512th Airlift Wing which operate the C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17A Globemaster III, participated in the required refresher training. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

Water survival refresher trainee, Master Sgt. Joshua Mal, 3d Airlift Squadron C-17A Globemaster III loadmaster, keeps his head above water as Staff Sgt. Adam Ellerd, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations NCO in charge, looks over his shoulder from a personal watercraft to see when and if Mal successfully releases from his harness July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Mal and other students had to find and release their torso harness fittings while being towed through the water to simulate being dragged by their canopy after landing in water. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)
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Water survival refresher trainee, Master Sgt. Joshua Mal, 3d Airlift Squadron C-17A Globemaster III loadmaster, keeps his head above water as Staff Sgt. Adam Ellerd, 436th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Operations NCO in charge, looks over his shoulder from a personal watercraft to see when and if Mal successfully releases from his harness July 17, 2015, near Dover Air Force Base, Del. Mal and other students had to find and release their torso harness fittings while being towed through the water to simulate being dragged by their canopy after landing in water. (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)

From left to right, Senior Airman Leo Avila, 709th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy engineer, Maj. Brian Hint, 709th AS C-5M pilot, Senior Airman Dan Bates, 9th AS C-5M loadmaster, Capt. Rob Willoughby, 9th AS C-5M pilot, and Maj. David Ross, 709th AS C-5M pilot, use a map to radio in their location to friendly rescue personnel during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The aircrew evaded enemy forces for several miles before rendezvousing with friendly rescue forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)
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From left to right, Senior Airman Leo Avila, 709th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy engineer, Maj. Brian Hint, 709th AS C-5M pilot, Senior Airman Dan Bates, 9th AS C-5M loadmaster, Capt. Rob Willoughby, 9th AS C-5M pilot, and Maj. David Ross, 709th AS C-5M pilot, use a map to radio in their location to friendly rescue personnel during a combat survival training exercise July 16, 2015, at the Blackbird State Forest near Smyrna, Del. The aircrew evaded enemy forces for several miles before rendezvousing with friendly rescue forces. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- The Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE, motto is very simple, but grave, "Return with Honor."

It is a motto that SERE specialists here at Dover AFB, Delaware, instill in aircrews, giving them the confidence they need to embark on any mission across the world. Team Dover Airmen recently set out to hone their survival skills  in combat survival training at Blackbird State Forest, and in water survival training in the Delaware Bay, July 16-17, 2015.

There are only two SERE specialists assigned to the 436th Operations Support Squadron, but they are responsible for providing survival training to more than 1,000 aircrew members, including aircrews from the Air National Guard and Reserves from neighboring states.

"I like to think of SERE training as the insurance for the aircrew," said Staff Sgt. Adam Ellerd, 436th OSS SERE Operations NCO in charge. "They spend hundreds of hours training for aircraft emergencies, but when it comes down to being isolated in a remote location, hungry, tired and with minimal gear, they have to know how to deal with those situations and take care of themselves and return home with honor."

The first day of the aircrew's training consisted of combat survival in the Blackbird State Forest. The crew was taken hostage by enemy combatants, and at their first chance, they made their escape through the woods splitting into different four- and five-man teams. The teams spent several hours navigating woodland terrain and marsh with limited supplies and gear. They relied heavily on tactics, techniques, and procedures, or TTPs, to elude enemy forces and navigate their way to a rendezvous point to be rescued by friendly forces.

Senior Airman Leo Avila, 709th Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy engineer, was responsible for navigating his team to various checkpoints throughout the training, all with older, but proven methods and technologies.

"The training today was definitely a boost of confidence for me," said Avila. "Nowadays, you rely so much on things like GPS, so it was nice to go back to a compass and a map and go back to the basics of navigation."

However, the diverse airlift missions supported by Team Dover means it sends its aircrews all over the world. Flying over large bodies of cold, violent water is a normal undertaking for these Airmen.

The second day of their training consisted of working with the U.S. Coast Guard, being rescued by helicopter from the waters of the Delaware Bay. Coast Guard crews hoisted Airmen in emergency rafts from the bay and into their helicopters, giving the students the experience of actually being rescued and lifted into a helicopter. 

Senior Master Sgt. Lori Tascione, 436th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluations superintendent, said water survival training is something she thinks is very important for aircrews to learn.

"With water, it's going to be the initial shock factor," said Tascione. "Most of the locations we go over have ice cold water. So you have to know how to protect yourself from anti exposure; know how to fish and know how to survive on the water."

Tascione added that surviving a water emergency takes a lot more than just being physically in shape.

"You have to be physically fit of course, but you have to be mentally ready to survive as well," said Tascione. "I tell my crew every time that we go out, 'Mama Bear is going home to her cubs,' so that's my reason to stay alive."

Ellerd said that by training with the Coast Guard, it can aid in the mental aspects of being rescued out at sea.

"We work hand-in-hand with other services to provide somewhat of a joint operation and a cohesive training environment for the aircrew," said Ellerd. "The experience they bring away from this are the rigors of the environment, how to push through and how to survive. That's really the difference often between someone who survives and someone who doesn't, that mental fortitude."

Ellerd, who has taught survival for multiple years at Dover AFB, said he hopes his students never have to use their survival skills, but the ones who do, he believes are ready for the challenge.

"Some of my most personal experiences I've had in my career is when we've had actual aircrews, who have been survivors, come back and talk to us and tell us about their experiences and how important it was for them to know how to survive," said Ellerd. "That's what really drives it home, to see somebody comeback and who did survive and had that will to take care of themselves."