SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape) is a survival training program developed by the US Military. It is considered one of the best among such programs in the world. It contains a lot of knowledge and skills that are vital for extreme situations — for example, what to do if you’ve been kidnapped, how to behave during an enemy interrogation, how to survive during a terrorist attack or in hostile environments. At first, it was used in Special Forces. But nowadays, civilians can attend these training courses, too. For instance, it is taught at Sigma-3 Survival School, Northwest Survival School, California SERE school, and many others.
What makes SERE survival training especially great is that it’s developed for situations when you are extremely vulnerable (for example, fatigued, hungry, thirsty, or shocked). It can help you stay strong and not to lose hope even in the hardest point of your life. SERE training puts attention not only to developing physical qualities such as strength or stamina but also to psychological resilience and stress-handling.
The main parts of SERE training
The majority of contemporary SERE-teaching schools divide the whole program into four main parts:
- Survival — the ability to keep on living in harsh and unusual conditions, for example, the wilderness. This part of the program is useful not only for survivalists but to all people because everyone might get lost in the middle of nowhere (for example, if their car is broken).
- Evasion, or stealth — avoiding getting captured. It is important both for soldiers, who have a very real possibility to be caught by enemy forces, and for civilians (especially in dangerous areas like criminal districts of some cities) to hide from gangsters or terrorists. For survival enthusiasts, it is also vital, because they need to avoid being attacked by wolves, bears, and other wild predators.
- Resistance. It is the ability not to surrender and break down even when pressed really hard. It is needed mainly for people in the military or intelligence agencies to resist enemy torture. But it’s useful for everybody, because even a civilian can end up in a situation like this (for example, if kidnapped).
- Escape is getting out of the enemy’s captivity. As you can expect, it’s not easy at all, but despite this, there are many strategies and techniques for it too — for example, how to free yourself from zip ties or handcuffs.
A SERE course usually starts from theoretical classes and is a survival exercise in nature. During the Survival part, you’ll have to live in the wilderness with only the most necessary gear that fits into a backpack. The conditions of this “adventure” will be, of course, rather tough — the participants will be hungry, exhausted, and won’t have a possibility to sleep properly. During this part of the course, they will need to develop sharpness and clarity of the mind that won’t depend on the harshness of their environment. These qualities are essential for surviving in severe wild conditions.
These courses can make you feel more confident in the wilderness, overcome your fear and panic, save time, energy and stay concentrated on the most important survival tasks. After completing the program, people can feel in the wild nature like at home.
During the classes, the instructor will teach you a wide range of basic and necessary things, such as:
- How to search for food and water, and how to prepare a survivalist’s dinner;
- How to find the right way;
- How to create an evasive bonfire;
- How to make a warm shelter from any materials that you have an access to;
- How to make simple weapons.
Here, you can see a video of real military survival training in details. It shows what a SERE program looks like and what to expect from it. As you can see, it’s true art!
One of the main ideas of SERE courses is that people should use as little gear and materials as possible, but it doesn’t mean the equipment isn’t needed at all. To prepare the right things for wilderness survival is an extremely important skill too, and all SERE trainees are taught it. According to SERE instructors, you should take such things as pills for water cleaning, tinder, infrared reflective patches, a mirror to make signals, a Leatherman multitool, bandages, tourniquets, UV protection cream, anti-insect chemicals and other useful items.
In addition to that, there’s an ESEE kit that consists of ESEE wilderness survival items (ESEE is a company producing survival knives). It includes some really advanced and high-quality things which are very useful for survival, so it’s appreciated by lots of people in the world.
Escaping from dogs
To escape from a dog chasing you is also a very important skill that can save your life. Dogs can be extremely dangerous, especially if they are well-trained and deliberately used to catch you.
Evasion from a dog who is tracking you is quite hard. Everyone in the world knows how sharp this animal’s sense of smell is and how fast it can run. So, you need very special strategies to successfully escape from it, and of course, SERE has covered it too.
Trained tracking dogs usually never bark until they find their target. It makes the escape even more difficult. But if you decide to attend a SERE course, instructors will teach you some clever techniques to do it.
No matter whether you’re a soldier or a civilian, the ability to avoid being captured is an extremely important skill that can possibly save your life one day. On SERE courses, there is a part dedicated to this too. participants are taught to resist and evade different types of capture such as ransom, kidnapping, acts of terrorism, and many others.
The evasion part of this training is very useful both in a city and in the wild. Here, you can learn how to develop situational awareness and a great level of alertness.
Ex-members of this course say that it resembles a hide and seek game but in the wilderness. There’s also a special exercise of hiding in an open space. And as with the dog escape, SERE instructors will teach you several great methods to evade capture and successfully hide from a search.
Becoming psychologically stronger
The final part of a SERE course is dedicated to mental resistance. The trainee’s psychological strength will be tested during an interrogation. SERE students should be able to resist all attempts to break them, make them surrender, cooperate with an enemy or give out important information. During the test, they will be offered comfortable rest, food, and warmth if they show any disloyalty. And since it’s done after all the previous training parts, they are hungry, thirsty, cold, tired, and probably in pain. So, it’s very hard to resist the temptation, and you indeed have to be very strong and resilient mentally to successfully pass this test.
But that’s not all. Even if you strongly refused all the luxuries and stayed firm as a stone, the hardest things still will be ahead of you. You’ll have to listen to extremely loud, awful music for a full day and a night. Alternatively, you’ll have to hear the desperate screams of a little girl, pleading her dad to come home as soon as possible. It will be played for 3 days straight, which can be truly horrifying.
The interconnection between the course parts
All the main points of SERE training — survival, evasion, resistance, and escape — are necessary by themselves, but they are tightly interconnected with each other, and understanding one part may be very helpful in another. For example, a person who is escaping capture will benefit immensely from using survival skills in case of crossing a vast wilderness. A survivalist needs to know how to be evasive because there can be lots of predators in the wild nature.
So, when you are looking for a SERE training school, you need to pay attention to whether they offer everything as a whole, whether their programs include all the main parts and connections between them. There should be both lectures and training on a wide variety of skills and techniques.
Before you decide to sign up for any SERE course, look for as much information about it as possible. You should know very well what it consists of and which themes it’s dedicated to. For survivalists, the best variant would be a course with an emphasis on the wilderness survival training part — but as we’ve already said, every single part of the SERE program is extremely important and should not be omitted.
The best SERE schools
It can be quite tricky to find really great SERE training courses quickly. In many of them, programs are too short to include every necessary moment. Another problem is that high-quality resistance training is rare because there are too few good instructors in that field. Also, many schools lower down the efficiency of their SERE courses since they are afraid that students may get injured if the training is too harsh.
But the situation is not as hopeless as it may seem. Despite all the difficulties, it’s still possible to find a useful and effective SERE school. Of course, complete resistance training parts may be rare (and escape ones are too), but evasion and survival are taught in lots of places — and for survivalists, this is what matters the most.
We’re going to give you some examples of SERE schools that we would recommend.
This survival training school offers SERE training which consists of two large parts: urban SERE and wild nature SERE. The whole course lasts a week, which is rather decent for learning lots of important stuff.
During the wild nature training, participants go to a forest, where they have to keep as safe and stealthy as possible. The training in a city includes such things as evading kidnapping, surveillance, escaping from enemies, and also many other things. This SERE training school teaches not only how to survive in extreme situations, but also gives useful skills for your usual, day-to-day life.
In addition to the whole pack of SERE skills, its program covers such things as:
- First aid in the wilderness;
- Scout skills and tactics;
- Bushcrafting skills;
- Combat and police training;
- Personalized lessons in small collectives and private training;
- Survival in polar and jungle conditions;
- Using firearms;
- How to prepare for emergency situations at home;
- And so on.
Despite many people thinking that effective SERE training is always dangerous, Sigma-3 (along with others from our list) proves otherwise. They’re among the best SERE schools, but they really care about their trainees’ medical condition and do everything they can to avoid any harm. And we’re sure that this is one of the things that make a SERE survival training school really good.
Moreover, the interrogation part — which is probably the most dreaded — is not compulsory at this sere training school. If you don’t want it to be included in your training, you have the option to omit it. But it’s not too scary either — it will last only two hours.
However, we need to warn you about the other parts of resistance training. It’s probably the toughest thing of the whole program. The treatments here are really harsh. Students are subjected to macing, stun gun shooting, and other unpleasant things. After all, it’s serious and efficient training, not a fun adventure. But if you finish it, you can become especially proud!
Also, there are lessons, during which you’ll need to escape being handcuffed or tied with ropes, zip ties, duct tape, and other things. At this school, you’ll learn how to resist everything that might be possibly used by your potential enemies against you.
Northwest Survival School
Northwest Survival School also offers training of amazing quality, and what’s more — it’s got personal instructors. Here, you can find courses for different age groups, including children. This school has one-day, two-day, three-day programs, custom classes, and a special outdoors section with an emphasis on self-reliance.
This SERE training school with more than 30 years of experience is located in Washington. Its students train in the Montana mountains and other wonderful places, surrounded by beautiful nature. The training ground of these courses is very large — a big part of Eastern and northwest Washington, which includes many different kinds of environments. The minimal number of trainees in a group is five.
California Survival School
California survival training school has a week-long training program which you can join for $1050. The training ground is situated to the north of LA. The main idea of this school is minimalistic survival. Here, you learn all the necessary fundamentals for surviving in various types of conditions with almost no equipment.
The main trainer at California survival school is Thomas Coyne, a man who once walked through Death Valley with no water or food in the summer heat. His ability to control himself and his needs are very well-known. So, he’s an expert who really can be trusted. This makes California survival school an even better choice.
Of course, the list of great SERE schools that you have the possibility to attend isn’t limited to those three. There are lots of others, such as SSFN SERE School, Guardian International Security Services and so on.
Why is SERE so important?
Of course, the majority of people in the world are unlikely to go to war, end up alone in the wilderness, or be kidnapped by terrorists someday in their lives but it doesn’t mean that survival, evasion, resistance, and escape fundamentals are not important. Life is much more unpredictable than you may realize. And who knows — probably, these abilities would come in handy to some of us one day. It’s much better to be prepared for a variety of situations, even if they aren’t likely to happen. Because if they happen, this valuable knowledge and skills-might save your life.
In case you’re a survivalist, the things taught at SERE courses will be even more important to you. This training is one of the most renowned among survival-teaching programs. Its efficiency is proven by the US Armed Services themselves, so it definitely cannot be useless. It includes highly-effective ways to build a fire, get out of any unfamiliar place, make a warm, durable, and protected shelter, and, mainly, stay calm and collected in every tough situation. Also, it teaches how to be as “invisible” as possible, which can help you hide from predators.
Frequently Asked Questions — FAQ
How much does SERE school cost?
The average daily price for attending a SERE school is 750 dollars. But it depends on each school. In different schools prices may slightly differ, so you’ll need to look before the registration how much you’ll need to spend.
Can anyone SERE train?
Although some people think that sere training is only for the army members, civilians may participate in SERE courses too if they desire. So yes, basically everyone has this possibility. But of course, you need to be in good physical condition, because the training requires a lot of strength, speed, and endurance.
Can you volunteer for SERE?
Theoretically, yes. But to work as a SERE volunteer, you need to have all the necessary qualifications for it. It’s not easy to volunteer for SERE, and if you’re not a professional — it’s literally impossible. So, you’ll most probably be rejected.
Why aren’t these skills taught in normal schools?
The main reason for it is that the theory is not enough to master the SERE skills. In these programs, people need to train practically. They simply won’t work without the necessary amount of practice. And normal schools often don’t have the right conditions and personnel for it. All instructors should be SERE experts, and the environment also should be very special.
Will SERE help in a nuclear attack?
It’s difficult to answer. Of course, if you are in the epicenter of the explosion, or even in the buffer zone — nothing will help you. But if you weren’t hit directly, it can be very useful. SERE skills can help you rescue both yourself and the people around you.