SERE cadre innovate to overcome class COVID-19 eruption

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Travis Edwards
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Instructors for the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school were given a new challenge in early 2022 -- educate a SERE Specialist technical school class where nearly half the students were COVID-19 positive.

“COVID wasn’t something we had run into before on such a large scale,” said Senior Master Sgt. Bryan Smith, 66th Training Squadron commandant. “This was a new, unique challenge for us, but our team was ready for it.”

Approximately 30 students and a handful of cadre tested positive for COVID-19, setting off a flurry of concern on how the team would continue training while maintaining proper risk mitigation protocols with the rest of the students.

“It took our cadre from Monday (Jan. 10, 2022) at 10 a.m. to Wednesday (Jan. 12, 2022) afternoon to make a plan, execute it, and start troubleshooting possible issues,” Smith said. “Our leadership team empowered our cadre to innovate, and they delivered – rapidly.”

Smith detailed what they did and how the cadre were able to keep the training on track while adhering to the course requirements.


“We weren’t set up for virtual learning,” said Smith. “But our cadre worked together and came up with a great solution that incorporated [video teleconferencing] instead in-person learning.”

The team acquired five Wi-Fi internet access points that rely on mobile cellular towers, and strategically placed them in the SERE dorms to enable COVID-19 infected and non-infected personnel access to the internet and the video teleconferencing software.

“We had to work together to get this done,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Hernandez, 66th TRS training instructor. “We all (66th TRS cadre) had a hand in making this work, and we’re excited to see it come to realization.”

SERE cadre also moved some of the in-person, scenario-based training to a later time when the students were no longer contagious. This movement forced them to front-load much of the academic instruction to a time when the personnel would be isolated or quarantined.

“We could not have continued training if this COVID outbreak occurred in the field,” said Col. Nick Dipoma, 336th Training Group commander.  “We were lucky in that respect, but the more amazing part was the cadre’s rapid adaptation and flexibility to ensure the students made progress while in isolation.”

Even though there was a short timeline to move all the academic learning to the beginning of the course, all students passed the four academic tests associated with the content.

“We are so proud of this team of cadre,” said Smith. “I know I speak for the entire SERE leadership staff when I say they absolutely knocked it out of the park.”