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Sea Breeze SERE Training Develops Ukrainian Instructors

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS170721-14
Release Date: 7/21/2017 10:56:00 AM

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg

MYKOLAIV, Ukraine (NNS) -- Pilots and aircrew members of the Ukrainian armed forces, which have been battling separatists in the eastern part of their country since 2014, face the real possibility of finding themselves behind enemy lines or needing to survive in isolation.

That is why survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) and personnel recovery experts were brought in from U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (NAVEUR-NAVAF/C6F) during Sea Breeze 2017.

"The Ukrainian military, especially the aviators, have to be prepared to survive and evade in a combat situation," said John Carey, the NAVEUR-NAVAF/C6F personnel recovery director. "So we're trying to establish protocols that would allow them to obtain the basic skillset required, such as fire craft, shelter building, water and food procurement, navigation and evasion."

Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen maritime security in the Black Sea region.

The intent of the Sea Breeze 2017 SERE training was not only to teach the students, but also develop a generation of Ukrainian SERE instructors who can set up and conduct their own survival training program, replacing a Ukrainian SERE school that was lost in 2014.

Carey, who was a pilot in the U.S. Army for 25 years, has been conducting SERE familiarization training and establishing survival courses since 1999.

Since 2009, members of his Joint Personnel Recovery Center team have coordinated the recovery of more than 4,000 people, including two U.S. Air Force F-15 pilots who went down in Libya during Operation Odyssey Dawn.

Sea Breeze 2017 represents Carey's third iteration of SERE training in Ukraine. His commitment to developing Ukrainian SERE instructors is clear.

"First and foremost, I have a great respect for the Ukrainian military," he said. "They're motivated to be the best they can be with the limited resources available. They come out willing to learn. They're very attentive and the camaraderie is very encouraging. I have no doubt that they'll be able to excel in this subject."

Two months before the start of the exercise, Carey and his team traveled to Ukraine to conduct SERE familiarization training. On the same trip, they handpicked 15 Ukrainian aviators to become SERE instructors.

One of the aviators was Sgt. Ivanov S. Eurevich, a member of Ukraine's 79th Air Assault Brigade in Mykolaiv.

"In my civilian life I was a hiker and spent time in the mountains," Eurevich said. "That time helped me develop certain skills, so now that it's my job, it's incredibly satisfying to see that I've been able to pass on to others and see them go forward."

Eurevich said Carey and his team helped him find effective modes of lesson preparation and teaching.

"One of the things that was helpful to learn from the instructors was that we learned different methods of teaching," Eurevich said. "I haven't been in the service as long as others, and considering the fact that flight crew training isn't the most frequent, standing before an audience isn't a natural thing."

Among the NAVEUR-NAVAF/C6F SERE instructors who returned to Mykolaiv was Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Akiel Mayers.

Mayers, who spent almost 10 years of his 16-year naval career on flight decks, described his own SERE training as valuable.

"I know the importance of it now, so that if I become captured I know what to do and how to survive," he said. "It's very important to know how to survive, evade, remain alive, and return home safely with honor."

For the Ukrainian SERE schools, a number of questions remain. Where will it be? How many students will go through? Can the instructors make a difference?

The NAVEUR-NAVAF/C6F team members agree on the answer to the last question. If the Ukrainians continue to receive support, they'll establish a solid course.

"Seeing my previous students step into the teaching role makes me feel that we've accomplished our goals," Mayers said. "Coming back here the second time allows us to see that we have met our objective and trained the trainer, so it goes a long way."

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