U.S., Romanian Troops Work Together in Survival Training


Survival, evasion, rescue and escape specialists conducted training here with 37th Airlift Squadron and Romanian air force pilots during Carpathian Summer 2018, a bilateral training exercise designed to enhance interoperability and readiness of forces by conducting combined air operations with the Romanian air force.

Pilot on the ground uses a mirror to signal aircraft overhead.
Air Force Capt. Jane Marlow, 37th Airlift Squadron pilot, reflects light off a mirror during survival, evasion, rescue and escape training in Bolovari, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018. Marlow used the mirror to signal C-130J aircraft overhead so she and her wingmen could be found. The SERE training was part of Carpathian Summer 2018, a bilateral training exercise designed to enhance interoperability and readiness of forces by conducting combined air operations with the Romanian air force. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin Boyer
Pilot on the ground uses a mirror to signal aircraft overhead.
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Air Force Capt. Jane Marlow, 37th Airlift Squadron pilot, reflects light off a mirror during survival, evasion, rescue and escape training in Bolovari, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018. Marlow used the mirror to signal C-130J aircraft overhead so she and her wingmen could be found. The SERE training was part of Carpathian Summer 2018, a bilateral training exercise designed to enhance interoperability and readiness of forces by conducting combined air operations with the Romanian air force. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin Boyer

The 37th AS is part of the 86th Airlift Wing ’based in Ramstein, Germany.

“Our purpose today is to work interoperable training with the Romanian rescue forces,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Canoy, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa SERE functional manager. “We put survivors on the ground, they communicate with their wingmen, and then they pass the information to the Romanians to get rescued.”

As the pilots rummage through their gear, they pull out a 3-by-5-inch mirror and a radio. As a face-painted pilot dials in a frequency to make communications, another takes the mirror and makes her way out to the field, the only spot within a 2-kilometer radius beaming with sunlight.

Receiving Instructions

The sweat beads up on their faces as they listen to the SERE experts provide instruction.

“When they fly over us, you’re going to want to aim that mirror right at their cockpit,” Canoy said.

In the distance, the faint sound of aircraft faded in and out.

“They’re getting close, but they keep flying away from us,” said one pilot to another.

The pilots then made contact with their wingmen overhead using the radio and gave them a heading.

Roaring engines echoed through the trees as the aircraft approached their location. The C-130J soared over them as they aimed the beam of light reflected off the mirror into their windows, hoping to be spotted. After a few passes, the pilots overhead confirmed visuals with the crew on the ground and gave them a set of coordinates to proceed to next.

Rendezvous Point

After traversing another thicket, the pilots reached a rendezvous point where they called in Romanian helicopter pilots for their rescue.

“The helicopter doesn’t have a visual of their location,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christian Martin, 86th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist. “They know roughly where they’re at and they’re doing a search pattern to identify where our isolated personnel are, but by using vectoring techniques, the aircrew are able to take the sound that they hear from the helicopter, use a heading to get them a visual of the helicopter, and then guide them in using left and right turns.”

Minutes passed, and then a helicopter appeared.

“We have a visual,” relayed the downed pilots to the Romanian helicopters. “Turn 90 degrees to your right.”

Each aircrew member took turns giving the helicopter pilots directions to their location. The choppers then landed, and the crew was saved.

Survival specialist on the ground communicates with pilots flying overhead.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Christian Martin, 86th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, rescue and escape specialist, instructs 37th Airlift Squadron pilots on what actions to take during SERE training in Bolovani, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018. The airmen worked with Romanian air force pilots during the training as part of Carpathian Summer 2018. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin Boyer
Survival specialist on the ground communicates with pilots flying overhead.
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Air Force Staff Sgt. Christian Martin, 86th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, rescue and escape specialist, instructs 37th Airlift Squadron pilots on what actions to take during SERE training in Bolovani, Romania, Aug. 24, 2018. The airmen worked with Romanian air force pilots during the training as part of Carpathian Summer 2018. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin Boyer

Air Force Capt. Jane Marlow, 37th AS pilot, said the training was incredibly valuable.

“It provided an awesome refresher on survival and evasion, while allowing us to do some things like helicopter vectoring and fixed wing rescue that simply aren’t available at Ramstein,” she said.

Marlow spoke on the importance of the training and how it essential for aircrew members.

“For those of us on the ground, the lessons learned in SERE may be the thing that saves your crew one day, should the worst ever happen,” she said. “For the C-130J’s in the exercise, it gave the crews the opportunity to train as on-scene commanders.”

The multinational rescue training improved cohesion between allied forces, Marlow said.

“Working search and rescue with the Romanians was an incredible opportunity,” she said. “It provided us the opportunity to simulate a realistic multinational rescue operation.”