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The Perfect Edge

The Perfect Edge

by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Bates,  Tech. Sgt. Bennie Davis and Andrew Arthur Breese 

It was June 1995, and then-Capt. Scott O'Grady was tired, hungry and alone. A few days earlier, his F-16 Fighting Falcon was shot down over Bosnia, and he'd spent the last 48 hours or so on the move, evading Serbian paramilitary forces that were looking for him.

He eluded capture for six days in the Bosnian countryside, drinking rain water and eating plants and bugs. O'Grady finally made radio contact with friendly forces and was rescued by a group of Marines that took him out of Bosnia at dawn of his sixth day on the run.

"He survived on what he brought with him from home: lots of courage and training," said Adm. Leighton Smith, then the commander of NATO's Southern Command, during a press conference after O'Grady's rescue. "Whatever else he had, he had a lot of guts to go with it."

What O'Grady also had were survival skills learned during a nearly three-week course at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. Called Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, or SERE, the course teaches aircrew members of every service how to survive on their own in any environment, should their plane go down. "Basically, we give them skills and tools they can use to build shelters, forage their own food and water and evade capture," said Senior Airman Joseph Collett, a SERE specialist.  
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"Ultimately, the goal is to survive, elude capture and get rescued," Senior Airman Joseph Collett said. "We give students a taste of what to expect in captivity and teach them how to deal with it mentally and physically."