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KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The explosion from a flash-bang grenade echoes through the jungle. Several more follow, sending birds fleeting into the sky.

Underneath the jungle canopy, Capt. Dean Peterson, a pilot, and Staff Sgt. Leslie Yarbough, an in-flight refueling-boom operator, slowly pick their way toward a trench halfway between them and their dust-off zone, or pick-up zone. In the distance, the men chasing them yell taunts.

“Come out infidel pigs! Come out now, and we’ll kill you quickly!”

On Wednesday, 14 airmen from Kadena Air Base went to the Area One Training Range to take a course in survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE).

Air Force pilots and airmen are required to take a SERE refresher course every three years. Tech. Sgt. Ed Dawejko, one of two instructors in the course, usually runs survival training year-round but tries to conduct SERE classes in October because of the cooler weather.

The training requires them to complete a land-navigation course through the jungle while remaining hidden from view.

Ed Dawejko said the grenades and two booby traps he and fellow instructor Staff Sgt. Trevor Brinton placed for the class “helps them get into the role that someone is out there trying to get them.”

An hour into the training, Peterson and Yarbough found themselves in a gully on the edge of a roadway. Dripping with sweat, they hid in the foliage and waited until Dawejko, Brinton and others had passed through the area and then crossed a dirt road and disappeared back into the jungle.

“They gain confidence in their own ability and in their equipment,” Dawejko said. “It should be muscle memory for them. They should be training for it (a crash) over their entire career.”

Each team was made of two airmen. They went over how to use a GPS receiver and a survival radio, then took out maps to review land-navigation concepts. They also went over how to stash a parachute and camouflage themselves.

After they painted their faces, each team was sent into the jungle. Peterson and Yarbough were the first team in.

Into the second hour, Peterson was sitting in a thicket with Yarbough close by. They were fine until the bugs got to them. They were about 100 yards away from their dust-off zone when Brinton caught them.

“I was OK until the ants go into my gloves and started crawling on my hands,” Peterson said, adding he learned that he should have stayed farther away from danger areas, such as roads, until right before crossing.

Despite being caught, he said the training was invaluable.

“We don’t get this often enough,” he said. “This is more hands on. Having the stuff you can play with out in the field is much better.”

Dawejko said he was pleased with the training.

“There are people when they get shot down that say, ‘My SERE training came back to me like it was yesterday.’”

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