New ESET training to wrap up next week

  • Published
  • By Amber Baillie
  • Academy Public Affairs
This summer, cadets here have been cycling through a new and improved Expeditionary Survival and Evasion Training requiring fewer hours in the classroom and more days in the field.

Since May 31, roughly 1,000 sophomores have been participating in combat scenarios at Jacks Valley and across the Academy to prepare for combat and non-combat survival situations.

"They are training for one event," said ESET Program Manager JD Richardson. "The focus is not on the evasion portion or combat skills portion, rather a combination of both. Cadets are training for a deployment."

The combat skills and personnel recovery tracks have been combined into one 10-day exercise, opposed to 20 training days. Through the new program, cadets satisfy their ESET and Commissioning Education Program requirements during the summer after their freshman year.

"This new program gives cadets a more realistic feel," said Cadet 1st Class Stephen Beaton, ESET deputy commander. "Every morning, they receive an intelligence briefing. We've created a scenario based on real world international conflicts that have occurred in the past, involving a 'good country' and 'bad country' that are neighbors. There is instability and regional strife, and cadets are to make the region more stable, which is why they 'deploy.' It gives them a realistic feel and reason for the training."

There are three 20-day periods during the summer for ESET. There are three 20-day periods during the summer for ESET. During the first 10 days, cadets participate in the ESET program and for the next 10 days participate in the Commissioned Education Program so they're able to complete both programs by the fall semester.

"By consolidating two academic years of lessons and incorporating our partnership program we have returned 54,000 man hours to the Cadet Wing," said Master Sgt. Shannon Cagler, curriculum program manager of commissioning education here. "The time can now be reutilized by AOCs and AMTs for contact time with their squadrons, cadet personal time, and other Cadet Wing priorities."

Instead of 5-6 days in the classroom, cadets are learning academics during field training. They spend one day in the classroom learning about basic survival, the code of conduct and recovery assets.

"It's more mission intensive," said Calum Langan, a British cadet and ESET group executive officer. "You're taught in the field rather than through PowerPoint slides, and use those skills immediately after. It is constant repetition of the skills, making it easier to retain them."

About 165 cadet cadre, 14 British cadets, four Survival, Evasion, Rescue, and Escape specialists, and roughly 30 permanent party members such as Academy Military Trainers and Air Officers Commanding conduct the training.

Due to budget restraints, cadets no longer travel to Fort Carson and fewer SERE specialists participate in ESET.

"A lot of AMTs and mission partners from security forces and the 10th Air Base Wing are filling some of those roles," Beaton said. "We really appreciate their assistance due to our limited resources."

The structure of the program makes the training feel purposeful, Langan said.

"You have your patrol training and then immediately practice it," he said. "Everything is linked together, feels smooth and more realistic. Personal discipline was the biggest skill I learned from the training."

ESET reinforces what the military does, the global role of the Air Force and intent for training, Beaton said.

"You learn how to stay calm, coherent and be incredibly effective at thinking through things under pressure," he said. "Even when it comes to conversing with natives in a different country, it's about thinking ahead, keeping your cool and acting strategically."

The training is also beneficial for cadets when they travel abroad, go skiing or hiking and find themselves in a situation they're not ready for, said Maj. Jeremy Farlaino, executive officer and director of training support here.

"This training gives them a foundation to fall back on and that is why we do it here at the Academy," he said.

Staff Sgt. Benjamin Domain, a SERE specialist, said he enjoys giving cadets advice from the operational side of the Air Force.

"I think SERE specialists are good at being leaders," he said. "We have a lot of experience taking young aircrews out to the field, such as in the woods when it's 20 below and raining. When people begin to reach hypothermia, we make sure they're safe and return them with new skills sets. I enjoy giving these cadets my past experience and knowledge that I've gathered from the past five years and developing them into the kind of officer I want."

During ESET, cadets are also exposed to ambushes, nonconventional recovery mechanisms, Military Operations Urban Terrain Village procedures and evasion techniques.

ESET concludes Aug. 1.