PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – --
Surrounded by trees and mountains, 29 trainees stared at their maps, compasses and each other trying figure out where they were and where to go next.
Master Sgt. Nathan Martinez, a 302nd Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist, took the group of 302nd Airlift Wing Development and Training Flight trainees on a hike at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, to teach them about teamwork and basic survival skills like map reading, shelter building and finding food.
At the beginning of the hike, the trainees were split into groups, given a map and a compass. Together, they had to figure out where they were on the map. Martinez made the group pause throughout the hike to demonstrate techniques on how to navigate different terrain, build shelters, find food and motivation to stay alive in a survival situation.
“This gives them a different look at what the military might be for some of them,” said Tech. Sgt. Saul Grosshuesch, the D&TF interim coordinator and SERE specialist candidate. “For the rest of them, it is good team building with light navigation skills to understand what it is like to walk through the woods and be accountable to your teammates and help them through a tough time.
“I want them to come away with more team building skills and understanding what it is to be a part of a team, to survive together and push each other.”
To finish out the day, Martinez challenged the trainees to find their way back only using their maps. Though they went off track, Martinez saw this as an opportunity because he sees these challenges as avenues for personal growth.
“I like to watch them fail,” said Martinez. “When someone fails that means they are learning something.”
The trip also prepared the trainees for the teamwork they will go through in basic military training and, for some, a peek into what they will be doing when they go to SERE training later in their careers.
“This training was very helpful in preparing me for BMT (Basic Military Training) and I’ll be going to SERE school so it’s nice to get a little bit of survival training beforehand,” said Christian Schulte, a D&TF trainee. “Also, I’m a hiker, camper and outdoorsy a lot so it is nice to get some experience from someone who has been doing this for their career.”
The military is not just about training drills and accountability. It’s about using the skill sets for problem solving and team management. It was a good opportunity to get them outside the box and allow them to experience the military and walk away with life skills at the same time while having fun, said Martinez.