Dover AFB executes Exercise Castaway 23-3

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marco A. Gomez
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 436th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance, escape flight partnered with active duty, guard and reserve U.S. Airmen, Marines, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office during Castaway 23-3 near Indian River Inlet, Delaware, Sept. 6, 2023.

Castaway 23-3 was the third iteration of the Total Force Interagency exercise that tested Dover AFB’s capabilities, use of tactics, techniques and procedures in the event a search and rescue mission over a body of water is required.

“My biggest goal has always been to highlight the reality of finding a life raft that is floating in the middle of the ocean and to improve the isolated person's survivability in the open ocean environment,” said Tech. Sgt. Derreck Day, 436th OSS SERE noncommissioned officer in charge.

“[We] evaluated the impact of having multiple survivors with simulated life-threatening injuries and what that does to the overall recovery process while in the middle of the ocean.”

The exercise simulated a downed aircraft with survivors utilizing survival equipment to signal a SAR involving the 3rd Airlift Squadron, 9th AS, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the 166th Airlift Wing, Delaware Air National Guard, New Castle, Delaware.

“We exercised the entire SAR process, from the initial notification to the Coast Guard Command Center Sector 4 that our simulated aircraft was going down, to having the survivors in the 46-man life raft get hoisted out of the water by the MH-65 Dolphin’s out of Atlantic City,” he said.

“Being that the scenario was that the survivors had no radios and very little survival equipment, [we] enlisted the help from the C-130’s out of New Castle to assist us with an airdrop to deliver a door bundle that would resupply the raft with the equipment that the isolated personnel needed to continue surviving until recovery was an option.”

This year, however, the SERE team collaborated with new players including the 166th AW who provided airdrop support and the NGA to collect geospatial data during the event.

“Castaway 23-3 focused on cementing our relationship with our total force partners by utilizing Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve members from the Air Force, Marines, and our friends at NGA,” he said. “We also continued to build on our partnership with the Department of Homeland Security by utilizing Coast Guardsmen from both Indian River and Atlantic City Coast Guard Stations to assist us throughout this entire training event.”

Since Castaway was first introduced in 2021, the SERE team has continued to apply the crawl, walk, run strategy to improve the following year’s exercise.

“We pushed the boundaries and exercised everything in between,” he said. “[We] hope the lessons learned over the past three years of conducting Castaway can be disseminated to the appropriate levels around the Air Force and drive the Department of Defense to implement changes on how we initially train those individuals who might find themselves stranded in the maritime environment.”