December 15, 2012

War Stories: Navy SERE School…

After nearly a year out east, I returned to California in January of 1994 with orders to report to HS-10, the helicopter training squadron in San Diego where I would spend six months learning the ropes before finally deploying as part of an operational squadron. But there were a few more hurdles to clear first, and the toughest of these was what came next. Before you can become a pilot, rescue swimmer, or any other job where there is significant risk of capture, you need two things. You have to have secret clearance, and you have to go to survival school.

The term “boot camp” was first used by the Marines back in World War II, the term boot being slang for “recruit.” Those of us who showed up for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Training (SERE) that January may have already been through many months of training, but we were clearly still green, still boots—and survival school was boot camp on steroids.

Based on the experiences of U.S. and allied soldiers as prisoners of war, the program’s aim is to equip its trainees with both the skills and the grit to survive with dignity in the most hostile conditions of captivity. It was far and away the most intense training I’d encountered so far.

We mustered at the SERE school building at Naval Air Station North Island, on the northern end of the Coronado peninsula, where we were scheduled for a week of classroom training, followed by a week of field work. We spent that first week covering history and background, including lessons learned from World War II and Vietnam. We learned such things as how to tell a captor just enough to stay alive—but not enough to give away secrets. The week went by fast, which suited us fine: we were looking forward to getting into the field.


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About the Author

is a former U.S. Navy SEAL with combat deployments to Afghanistan, and Iraq. During his last tour he served as the west coast sniper Course Manager at the Naval Special Warfare Center. He is Editor-in-Chief of SOFREP.com, and a New York Times best selling author (The Red Circle & Benghazi: The Definitive Report). His writing has been featured in print, and digital media worldwide. You can follow him on twitter here.

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  • SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

    scummy LOL, Goddamit, that is a funny story.

  • scummy

    SERE School was the best learning experience of my life! I went as a young AW3 in the winter of '91 at NAS Brunswick, ME.  We were in our cells late one night and the music was playing LOUD over the PA system. "Boots", the baby crying (my personal favorite) and all the other PRONA's Top 40 hits were playing when someone a few cells down from me started singing "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones at the top of his lungs. It wasn't just the chorus. This guy was singing like he was a contestent on The Voice. I heard the guard screaming for him to shut up and charging toward his cell. It didn't stop. He kept singing and you could hear the breaks in the song as the guard tried to subdue him but as soon as he caught his breath, he would start singing louder! As he was dragged down the passageway and out the door of the building, you could hear him singing over the music on the PA as well as the shouting of the comrades coming to help. There was silence in the cells. About 30 seconds later, someone said "You'd think the summbitch could have sang a song written by a fucking American!" Everyone lost it!  Thanks to All my brothers and Sisters who have served and had the opportunity to experience SERE School, Pig Dogs! War Criminal #69

  • 5000area375

    It is realized that we will not always or only be fighting the Taliban/Al Queda scum right? As of now we are not fighting many who hold POWs but that doesn't change things. If we take action in Syria, Assad will take and hold prisoners if possible. If not him there will be other wars and enemies in our future. Three things are certain death, taxes, and wars. I appreciate the divergent opinion because they make me think about things from a different vantage point, that being said, I personally could careless what a psychologist has to say because they are fast to claim any personal weakness is a disease and not the fault of the screw ups. I have read about several psychology professor spouting bs about child molesters as the same as the rest of us, and how the pedophiles actions might be good for kids, and other insane bs. Not all preach that crap but when you have professors shaping the minds of students with it, and no large out cry from the psychologist community it makes me view their profession as garbage. If they are unwilling to police their own they will lose all credibility. I am sure there are some great well meaning people in the field, but the lack of public out cry against the crazy professor leads a lot of people to believe they agree with the kooks.

  • JonathanL

    War criminal 66.  USN Warner Springs 2003.  Great post and brings back memories... not exactly fond, but worthwhile.   BOOTS! BOOTS!  BOOTS!   Marching up and down again! There is no discharge in the WAAAAR!

  • thebronze

    I was Criminal 47 (AF SERE School, 1998)