By Sgt. Elizabeth C. Harris | 4th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Soldiers with 4th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, conducted evasion training Aug. 26-28, 2019, at Fort Carson. The training simulated the actions that crewmembers take in the event of a crash landing in a hostile environment.
Upon impact, the crew doesn’t wait around for someone to come to them. They must evade enemy forces, and leave what is referred to as the “X.”
“Getting off of the X, means quickly moving from an aircraft’s point of impact and getting back home,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Nathan Martinez, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) specialist. “Once an aircraft impacts, pilots are isolated. Whatever put them on the ground is coming for them.”
Once separated from their aircraft, crewmembers have to rely on their training and limited amount of equipment to return home. The brigade leadership and an Air Force SERE specialist partnered to train crewmembers for an isolated event.
“We started off this week with a half day of academics with our survival specialist,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kevin Oaks, aviation mission survivability officer, 4th CAB. “(He) taught us the basics from a SERE standpoint that most of us have not had since flight school.”
The evasion training took place over the course of three days, beginning in the classroom and concluding with a simulated isolation event where the crewmembers had to communicate with a personnel recovery team.
“Getting out here, getting hands on the radio, moving around as a team is very realistic,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Pate, an AH-64 pilot with 4th ARB, 4th CAB. “(This is) the first time I had hands on a radio where you get to talk to the personnel recovery center. It’s great.”
The radio that connects a downed air crew to the personnel recovery center is called a Combat Survivor Evader Locator (CSEL) radio. The CSEL allowed isolated crewmembers to communicate with friendly forces so they can be rescued. This type of training does not happen often and pilots don’t always get to practice using the CSEL radio.
“This is the first time I’ve used the radio besides pressing (during) preflight,” said Chief Warrant Officer Anthony Donaldson, an AH-64 pilot with 4th ARB, 4th CAB. “Being able to (communicate) back and forth is pretty good practice.”
The evasion training was an opportunity for crewmembers to refresh their knowledge on the equipment. It also gave them the assurance that even though they are isolated, they are not alone, Martinez said.
“You can replace an aircraft, but you cannot replace a service member,” Martinez continued. “We’ll never stop searching. This training gave (service members) confidence in their tools to be successful in an isolated event.”