SERE survival training: How to survive, evade, resist and escape danger

You might be physically prepared for the worst-case scenario, but is your mind truly ready for make-or-break situations? The Prepping Guide recommended you find out by taking a SERE training course.

SERE is an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. It imparts the basic knowledge and skills to survive hostile environments, evade pursuers, resist captivity, and escape incarcerations while you’re alone, starving, and tired.

It traces its genesis to the efforts of the U.S. military to counter Chinese interrogation of American prisoners-of-war (POW) during the Korean War. With CIA assistance, it developed special training for American personnel to endure interrogation until they could escape or be rescued.

The SERE methodology itself comes from LTC James Nicholas “Nick” Rowe. One of only 34 American servicemen who escaped imprisonment during the Vietnam War, Rowe designed and built the core course during the Eighties.

The basic course is a prerequisite for all military personnel. Special forces operatives, combat pilots, and other soldiers who run higher risks of getting captured undergo an advanced version.

SERE has proven so effective and popular that civilian survival schools have adapted it.

What sets SERE apart is its emphasis on resisting interrogation (including torture) and maintaining your mindset. Its creator, LTC Rowe, drew upon the five horrific years he spent as an oft-interrogated and tortured prisoner of the Viet Cong to fortify his fellow man against similar experiences.

SERE training and skills

You’d be surprised that one of the first steps involves a lot of reading. SERE trainees read about the harrowing experiences of former POWs such as LTC Rowe at the hands of their cunning and sadistic captors.

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Now equipped with the proper mindset, the trainees must learn to make do with barely any supplies. This deprivation lets them experience and endure real fatigue.

Wilderness survival comes hand-in-hand with this. Students learn how to obtain food and water, build fires and shelters without revealing themselves, and find their way through hostile foreign territory.

After the Survival part comes the Evasion part of SERE. Just as an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure, so does successful Evasion of the enemy avoid the need for Resisting and Escaping.

The Prepping Guide described Evasion as a mind game that applies to both the wilderness and the concrete jungle of the urban environment, making it useful to soldiers and civilians alike. It is dependent upon situational awareness.

SERE trainees must learn to evade human hunters and dogs. This part of the course usually takes place in the wilderness, but it can just as easily be held in the city. (Related: Low-tech transportation tools for the prepper: Do you have a wagon, wheelbarrow or yard cart?)

A matter of honor

Finally we have the most notorious part of SERE training. The Resistance part is fairly classified given it is still in use by the military.

The Prepping Guide is permitted to talk about the mental aspect of Resistance. This stage determines if candidates could stay true to the Code of Conduct of the U.S. military.

It’s never as easy as it sounds. After running the earlier gauntlet, trainees are short on everything: food, water, comfort, and rest. They’re now confined to a small area with no amenities, no way to determine time, and terrible music and the sobbing pleas of a little girl playing for 24 hours.

Every now and then, instructors tempt the candidates with offers of food, drinks, and warmth for even a little bit of information. Trainees have to withstand this for three days. Either they finish the training with honor, or they don’t.

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