Senior Airman Joseph Collett loves his job as a survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) instructor. His passion, however, is making quality knives – the knives he uses in his SERE training.
Collett sees honing the sharp edge on a quality knife as a metaphor for hardening and sharpening his SERE trainees. The blacksmith takes iron and carbon, and through hard work produces a piece of fine steel that will take a sharp edge. As with knife-making, Collett takes aircrew members without survival skills and instills in them the knowledge that may someday save their lives.
Air Force survival trainer hones his skill as a blacksmith
(U.S. Air Force video/Andrew Arthur Breese)
Senior Airman Joseph Collett is a survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor assigned to the 336th Training Group at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. He and his fellow instructors train aircrew members and future SERE instructors how to survive in austere environments.
SERE training famously saved the life of Air Force Captain Scott Grady, shot down over Bosnia
He knew he was lucky to be alive – a Serbian ground-to-air missile battery had locked on to his F-16 as he flew a patrol to enforce a no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. The first missile exploded between O’Grady and his wingman’s planes, but a second one hit O’Grady’s F-16 dead on, and the plane broke apart immediately. He was able to safely eject from the disintegrating plane and parachute to the ground.
“He survived on what he brought with him from home: lots of courage and training,” said Adm. Leighton Smith, then the commander of NATO’s Southern Command, during a press conference after O’Grady’s rescue. “Whatever else he had, he had a lot of guts to go with it.”
What O’Grady also had were survival skills learned during a nearly three-week course at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Called Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, or SERE, the course teaches aircrew members of every service how to survive on their own in any environment, should their plane go down.
Some SERE trainer was doubtless very proud when Grady made it out alive.