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July 14, 2016
HE Combat Survival
Training School (CSTS)
at RAAF Base Townsville
conducts Survival, Evasion,
Resistance and Escape (SERE) train-
ing for ADF aircrew.
Army, Navy and Air Force instruc-
tors teach aircrew from all services
how to survive in permissive (peace
time) and non-permissive (hostile)
environments during the two-week
course in Townsville.
CSTS holds an average of eight
courses each year and every second
year runs cold weather survival train-
ing at Mt Hotham in Victoria.
With the current deployment of
aircrew to the Middle East region
on Operation Okra, the school also
facilitates SERE refresher training and
theatre-specific and platform-specific
force preparation training.
Sgt Robert Nelson, of CSTS, is an
Army SERE instructor at the school
and an aircrewman.
The former RAAC soldier changed
corps to AA Avn and has worked
with S-70 Black Hawks and CH-47
Sgt Nelson said the most important
skill needed to survive in a combat
environment was how to evade.
“In peacetime, it is the will to sur-
vive,” Sgt Nelson said.
“The main things students need to
do to prepare for this course is enhance
“This course will probably be the
first time some of the students will be
really hungry as they have to work for
“There will be many times where
they will be put in situations way out-
side their comfort zone.
“The students on the course need a
willingness to learn and the tenacity to
not give up.”
The foundation of the training at
CSTS focuses on SERE principles,
which are run through chronologically
during the course.
At the start of the course students
are taught how to survive in a
permissive or no-threat environment
with simple skills such as building a
shelter, lighting a fire, locating and
consuming water and food, all while
working towards a plan for recovery.
They then move into a non-permis-
sive environment with a combat focus,
taking into account current overseas
Instructors at the school want to be
as operationally relevant as they can.
The evade, resist and escape com-
ponents of the course teach students
how to operate effectively in a combat
environment and return to friendly
CSTS has a permanent position
within Operation Okra, which provides
continuing SERE and joint personnel
recovery training for deployed aircrew
in the Middle East.
SERE instructors rotate through the
position and take the operational les-
sons learnt back into the school.
Sgt Nelson recently returned from
a four-and-a-half month deployment
with the Air Task Group in the CSTS
role on Operation Okra.
“The aircrew are taught the skills
they need to survive,” he said.
“If one of our aircrew currently
deployed were to crash or eject in hos-
tile territory, the skills we give them
are what they need to be recovered
Liaison and training with interna-
tional SERE schools help CSTS stay
up to date.
Most recently, some of the instruc-
tors attended the US Air Force SERE
courses in Spokane, Washington, and
the Arctic Survival Training Course in
They also visited the UK’s survival
school and trained to NATO standards
to ensure the ADF’s SERE skills are
SERE student Cpl Liam Ferguson,
of 5 Avn Regt, is an avionics techni-
cian with C Sqn.
He is about to change jobs and
become an aircrew technician.
Cpl Ferguson said he loved flying
and wanted to develop his aviation
“The main thing I have learnt on
the SERE course is how to apply com-
mon sense in order to survive in differ-
ent situations,” he said.
“We need to understand our limits
and boundaries and realise the impor-
tance of finding water and having
“The cold weather at High Range
has been a challenge, but the CSTS
instructors have shown us how to make
a fire and use it for warmth.”
Cpl Ferguson said the main skill
needed to survive was tenacity.
“I most enjoyed the solo phase in
the jungle where we had to build a
shelter, make a fire and find water to
survive the night by ourselves with
minimum equipment,” he said.
“We didn’t know how long the
exercise would last and had no contact
with anyone. The best part is leaning
we can survive if we have the right
mind-set, skills and the will to live.”
Evading and surviving
The most important thing soldiers learn at the Combat Survival
Training School is how to evade capture, Cpl Mark Doran reports.
Cpl John Ralph,
of 5 Avn Regt,
Army welcomes letters
To increase the
likelihood of having a
letter published, please
Preference is given
to letters under 250
Letters may be
edited for space and
Letters must include
author’s name, unit,
Letters might be
rejected if they are too
long, abusive or can
be answered by the
Participants demonstrate a combat search and
rescue recovery during the Survival, Evasion,
Resistance and Escape course at the Townsville
Field Training Area.
Photos by Cpl Mark Doran
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