SF SERE School

Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Training

SERE is a United States military acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, a program that provides military personnel, Department of Defense civilians and private military contractors with training in evading capture, survival skills and the military code of conduct. Established by the United States Air Force at the end of the Korean War (1950–53), it was extended during the Vietnam War (1959–75) to the Army, Navy and Marines. Most higher level SERE students are all military aircrew and special operations personnel considered to be at high risk of capture.

Survival and Evasion

Most of SERE training focuses on survival and evasion. Skills taught include woodcraft, and wilderness survival in all types of climate. This includes what is known as emergency first aid, a variant of the battlefield variety, land navigation, camouflage techniques, methods of evasion, communication protocols and how to make improvised tools.

Resistance and Escape

Training on how to survive and resist the enemy in the event of capture is largely based on the experiences of past US and allied prisoners of war. Most of the aspects of this course are secret. Several official websites, however, give a general overview.

Water Survival

How to survive in water is taught at a separate Professional Military Education (PME) course; it takes two days and is typically attended after the main SERE course. In addition to training in the use of aquatic survival gear, more academic skills include first aid tailored to an aquatic environment, communication protocols, ocean ecology, and equipment maintenance.

Code of Conduct

SERE training is intended, above all, to provide students with the skills needed to live up to the US military code of conduct when in uncertain or hostile environments. It is recited as follows:

  1. I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
  2. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
  3. If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
  4. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
  5. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability, I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
  6. I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

The Army has a specialized school called SERE (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), which teaches students the basics of survival if they should find themselves separated from friendly forces in enemy territory. SERE school is shrouded in mystery due to its classified nature. Students who attend the schools are not allowed to divulge specific information about what goes on at SERE. Part of the SERE training is preparing students to confront the unknown.

Sere In The Services

  1. Each branch of the military has its own version of SERE tailored to its own needs. The Air Force and Navy use SERE programs designed to help air crew members cope with survival in enemy territory, while Army SERE is geared more toward ground forces.


  1. The SERE program traces its roots back to the Vietnam War. First Lt. Nick Rowe spent nine years as a POW in Vietnam, and when he left the Army in 1974, Rowe wrote his memoir, “Five Years to Freedom.” Army Special Forces recognized the need for a SERE program and chose Rowe to design a course and establish its operation.

Levels Of Sere Training

SERE training takes place at four levels:

Level A: Entry level training. These are the Code of Conduct mandatory classes taken by all at induction (recruit training and OCS). All service personnel get this basic training annually.

Level B: For those operating or expected to operate forward of the division rear boundary and up to the forward line of own troops (FLOT). Normally limited to aircrew of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Level B focuses on survival and evasion, with resistance in terms of initial capture.

Level C: For troops at a high risk of capture and whose position, rank or seniority make them vulnerable to greater than average exploitation efforts by any captor. Level C focuses on resistance in terms of prison camps.

Level D: For aircrews, but more recently phased out; what would have been SERE-D students in future undergo SERE-C training at Fairchild.

US Army SERE School

Army SERE school is three weeks long. The first part of the class teaches students how to survive in the field on their own. Students learn which plants are edible and which ones to stay away from. They also learn how to make homemade weapons and equipment should they need them. The course culminates with students being released in the field and trying to evade an “enemy” army. All of the students are eventually captured and spend time in an authentic-looking Cold War-era POW camp. The instructors at the camp wear the uniforms of an enemy army, and they often speak a foreign language in the camp. While in the POW camp, SERE students are exposed to interrogation techniques.