SERE

Isn’t funny how all sorts of life skills help train you for all things kinky?

I promised, more or less, to explain a lit­tle more about my col­lege class that involved eat­ing rab­bits and wan­der­ing through the woods avoid­ing bad guys.

SERE was a three-​​week required class offered between fresh­man and sopho­more years at the United States Air Force Acad­emy. The class is no longer taught, but there is a Wikipedia page avail­able. SERE stands for Sur­vival, Eva­sion, Resis­tance, Escape.

The Resis­tance and Escape por­tions refer to wartime prisoner-​​of-​​war con­di­tions where the Geneva Con­ven­tions apply. The pre­cise con­tent is clas­si­fied. But, sur­prise, sur­prise, a major por­tion was the the­ory and prac­tice of “mind games” aimed at subverting/​brainwashing some­one. I was sur­prised to dis­cover that the bruises obtained in the R & E train­ing per­sisted quite a while — it was days before it dawned on me what the source was of a cer­tain area of soreness.

The Sur­vival por­tion was pretty stan­dard stuff. How to bail out of a not-​​so– good air­plane, how to hit the water in a para­chute, how to pre­pare for a sur­vival trek using native mate­ri­als and what’s left of the para­chute, snakes, heat and cold and storms, that kind of stuff. All use­ful stuff, but I was quite famil­iar with most of it; I’d had a fair expo­sure to sur­vival con­sid­er­a­tions as part of my mountain-​​climbing experience.

In prepar­ing for the sur­vival trek, we were divided into units of six guys (stu­dents), the group of six divided into two teams of three. By a nice ser­pendip­ity, a sec­ond one of the six was quite at home out­doors, and even more for­tu­nately had Applachian expe­ri­ence. My expe­ri­ence was lim­ited to the Pacific North­west — dif­fer­ent trees, plants, shrubs, ani­mals, etc. So between us we had quite a body of expe­ri­ence. We had already been hik­ing bud­dies and knew some­thing of each oth­ers’ backgrounds.

This was going to be totally cool. Under­stand, it was well known that the sur­vival trek was pretty tough. In prepar­ing for the trek, we needed to con­struct a back­pack (knap­sack) for car­ry­ing stuff, a tent, and I for­get what else. All was to be con­structed from pieces of para­chute and native mate­ri­als using our train­ing and a small sur­vival knife (not one of those Rambo blades).

He and I decided to con­struct real back­packs, frame and every­thing. We did, and they worked very well. We had plenty of para­chute cord avail­able to “Indian lace” every­thing tight and serve as a nice pad for rest­ing the weight against our backs. Espe­cially com­pared to every­one else’s over-​​the-​​shoulder nylon sack, it was totally cool. And unprece­dented — lots of peo­ple watched our progress in con­struc­tion and usage. We got lots of com­ments dur­ing the trek to the effect of “Oh, you’re the guys…”

So, the “Sur­vival” phase (“S” of S.E.R.E.), then, was on cam­pus. Part class­room, part prac­ti­cal exer­cise (such as land­ing in the –cold– water in para­chute har­ness), part work­ing on our “projects” such as stitch­ing together a ruck­sack. As you might infer from any other intense train­ing expe­ri­ence, we didn’t exactly head for bed by 9 pm. In fact, it was after 9 that he and I headed out with our flash­lights and pocket knives to gather suit­able branches for our back­pack frames. This phase included map and com­pass train­ing — again some­thing I was pretty good at from lots of no-​​trail-​​in-​​sight travel with map and compass.

For the “Eva­sion” phase, pri­mar­ily con­sist­ing of the sur­vival trek, we were trucked to some other area of the Col­orado Rock­ies. The week-​​long (so far as I remem­ber) trip was in the 8000–11000 foot alti­tude range. The scenery was absolutely won­der­ful, though most of our group was in no shape to appre­ci­ate that.

The first Eva­sion day was in camp. Among other things the groups shared a cow (I think). We made blood sausage and smoked beef. That meant some­body had to stay up all night to make sure the stuff con­tin­ued to get “smoked”. For that day’s meal we were given a (cof­fee?) can, a potato and a cou­ple of car­rots, and a live Bunny Rab­bit. That was lunch and din­ner for six. We were taught how to kill a rab­bit: You hold it by its hind legs so it’s head down­ward. Stroke its back in a cer­tain way and it will arch its neck so that the head stretches back. Then you karate-​​chop old Bunn’s neck in a cer­tain way, break­ing the neck and killing Bunny Rab­bit. We were then taught how to skin and “clean” it.

Sev­eral of us were squea­mish about such things as skin­ning and gut­ting cute Bunny Rab­bits. (They have such cute lit­tle tails, you know.) As it hap­pened, I was the only one of the six to not be involved in any part of Rab­bit prepa­ra­tion — I was obvi­ously so com­fort­able with the var­i­ous sur­vival skills that I was eas­ily able to defer the “expe­ri­ence” to oth­ers. Heheheh.

But that day in camp, we had a feast. That was because both he and I knew what kind of edi­ble leaves and stuff to look for. We gath­ered all sorts of greens, flow­ers, roots, and I for­get what else for adding to the stew. All six of us car­ried our BFC’s with us. (When telling the story years ago, we’d always talk about car­ry­ing our BFC’s, invit­ing the obvi­ous ques­tion — What’s a BFC? We’d answer Big F—ing Club and move on with the story.)

In the process of search­ing for edi­bles we found a Jackrab­bit and ran it down, stop­ping it with our BFC’s. Between the wild edi­bles and the sec­ond Rab­bit for six, we now had a tremen­dous feast as com­pared to the other groups. This was sur­vival train­ing; we had no inten­tion of shar­ing. What we found, we gath­ered for our­selves. Later on, though, while one of our six was reliev­ing him­self in the vicin­ity of a tree, he saw another Jackrab­bit! We were hun­gry and def­i­nitely wanted that Rab­bit. The chase was a bit hilar­i­ous, I’m afraid. Even­tu­ally we cor­nered Jackrab­bit in its hole and waited at both exits (there were six of us, and we were hun­gry). We got the third Rab­bit with our BFC’s and had an again unprece­dented feast.

We were hungry.

As you might guess, the other group’s eat­ings were not too won­der­ful. But we found we had too much to eat — and it actu­ally tasted quite good, sur­vival or no. We *had* done well in our edibles-​​gathering, you see. Another group of six, fairly nearby, stopped by and dis­cov­ered we couldn’t fin­ish our meal by rea­son of being full. We were lament­ing the need to clean up after the meal. We were, after all, just 18– and 19-​​year old boys! The other group, ah, expressed a will­ing­ness to fin­ish up the stew for us and return things clean.

We received pos­i­tive feed­back as to the qual­ity of our meal. It was only then that we real­ized how bad the other groups’ meals had been. Prop­erly accom­pa­nied with wild greens, that Jackrab­bit was mighty fine eat­ing! We felt sorry for the groups that had to set­tle for one sin­gle Bunny Rabbit.

For the sur­vival trek to com­mence the next day, we had each had one C ration (that’s like one freeze-​​dried din­ner for one) and the small amount of sausage and smoked beef we’d made. No break­fast, of course. That amount had to last for I for­get how long, I think it was either 5 or 6 days.

Any­way, the sur­vival trek was an Eva­sion game. We were given a map coör­di­nate and told to go find the Par­ti­sans at that point, and they would give us the next coör­di­nate. Each check­point, miles away, was only open for an hour or two so it didn’t pay to get lost in those moun­tains. We had to be prop­erly cam­ou­flaged when we con­tacted the Partisans.

Mean­while, there were lots of Bad Guys trav­el­ing with guns (loaded with blanks, of course) and jeeps, and on foot. We had to Evade them, and they tended to have an idea of where we’d show up. We each indi­vid­u­ally car­ried a score card with us. Each time we got caught by a bad guy, we’d get a mark on our score card. At the end of SERE, the ones with the most marks got to stay over to wash down the trucks while every­one else went on leave. Since we only got three weeks off all sum­mer, that was pretty significant.

Nat­u­rally, the Bad Guys tended to keep an eye on the roads, trails, ridges, and val­leys, espe­cially includ­ing water sources. So travel was dif­fi­cult and care­ful (that, of course, was the whole point).

Only once did I or my group get caught by the Bad Guys. Once only were we stu­pid enough to drop down to a trail for a short ways. We came around a cor­ner and Sur­prise! we had to stand in line to get our score­cards marked off. Ouch.

As you might guess we stayed pretty hun­gry. With bad guys around we had a hard time obtain­ing water too. I remem­ber being pretty severely dehy­drated. We had iodine pills for water purifi­ca­tion. There was a packet of instant cof­fee pow­der in the C ration. I used that to give the water an alter­nate fla­vor — that was also my second-​​ever taste of coffee.

The first day of the trek included a severe light­ning storm. Believe me, I know the moun­tains are the wrong place to be in a light­ning storm. Quite an evening.

By the last cou­ple of days of the trek, I had found a pat­tern. The bad guys tended to block the direct path to the Par­ti­sans, and thus cap­ture peo­ple. They tended to show up only just before the Par­ti­sans did, I for­get, maybe half an hour before and raise hell with the stu­dent Evasionists.

So. Our wilder­ness trav­el­ing skills being pretty good, we usu­ally arrived long before the check­point opened (as did some oth­ers). The nav­i­ga­tion required to get safely from one check­point to the next, at the right time, really was quite chal­leng­ing. But any­way, we con­tin­ued on past the area and waited on the far side of the check­point. From there, we were never trou­bled. We watched the Par­ti­sans set up their check point, not real­iz­ing our cam­ou­flaged selves were a few feet away.

The final check­point was to be the next morn­ing. We would then be done and trucked back to cam­pus for din­ner. We found the check­point that night and trav­eled on past. We crossed the main dirt road and set up camp just out of sight of the road, in a nice meadow. Right out in the open! To date, our camps had been care­fully hidden.

We heard jeeps on the road all night, flush­ing out campers and catch­ing them. Like­wise in the morn­ing. We were never both­ered, just a few feet on the other side of the road. We slept in. Sev­eral groups of Par­ti­sans passed through the mid­dle of our camp, trav­el­ing to the var­i­ous final check­points nearby (dif­fer­ent groups had dif­fer­ent check­points). Finally one loudly observed that we really should prob­a­bly be get­ting up now as he walked on through! We had found the pat­tern and were flaunt­ing that knowl­edge! It was totally cool! (Except for not hav­ing eaten in a few days, that is.)

We filled our plates to over­flow­ing that night, but thanks to the long time since our last meal, we felt stuffed with only a few bites.

So there you have it… one of my sum­mer school classes back decades ago.

tabs-top

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>