The largest SERE Course, and only career dedicated, SERE Instructor cadre in the Department of Defense, are located at the primary Air Force SERE training center which is at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. The Air Force conducts Arctic Survival Training – Cool School at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, and Parachuting and Water Survival Training at Fairchild AFB, Washington. USAFA graduates selected for pilot, air battle manager, or
navigator training must complete SERE training at Fairchild after
receiving their wings, along with their AFROTC and OTS graduate
USAF SERE Specialists are considered DOD wide subject matter experts in their field. USAF SERE are assigned to base level and to command staff as advisors. USAF SERE are the only Test Parachutists in the Department of Defense. They test all new parachute systems and evaluate all flying platforms for suitability in DOD operations.
Based on the experiences of the British and American Pilots who managed to escape and evade from the Germans during World War II, and return to friendly lines, several private "clubs" were created during World War II. One such club was the "Late Returners Club". This club which had a "Flying Boot" as its identifying symbol, was strictly non-military. However, under the left collar, of his uniform, the individual who had successfully escaped and/or evaded the enemy pinned the "Flying Boot" and although everyone knew it was not official, they didn't question its wear. The experiences of these Evaders was passed on in lectures, guest appearances, and small regional specific training programs by the US Army Air Corps and in British military programs. Consolidation into a formal (then called "Survival" program of instruction came in 1943. Under the direction of General Curtis LeMay it was realized that it was much cheaper and more effective to train Aircrews in Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape techniques, than to have them languishing in enemy hands. He was responsible for the establishment of SERE training at several bases/locations. In 1943, the US Army established a small program for Cold Weather Survival at RCAF Station Namao in Alberta, Canada and in 1945 it was moved to Camp Carson (1945), Colorado. In 1948 another course was at Marks Air Base, Nome, Alaska. The first instructors were composed of experienced wilderness "civilian" volunteers and USAF military personnel with prior instructor experience. This initial cadre also included "USAF Rescuemen" from around Alaska, Greenland, Colorado, etc. General LeMay attended the first class of instruction as a student and several times later. As time wore on, the expense and wisdom of having multiple locations for training was questioned and consolidation was begun. The hardest part of that consolidation was where to locate the training base that offered the best environmental and logistical support for such a small but convoluted training program. Ultimately, the USAF consolidated at Stead AFB, Nevada. In the mid 60's, the school was moved to Fairchild AFB, WA. Note: The use of term "SERE" was adopted by the US Navy at its school in the 90's and later also at all the other services programs, prior to its adoption the program was called "Survival" (an all encompassing term).
SERE training takes place at three levels: