Know Your Military

Surviving on ‘SERE’ Will

Nov. 7, 2018 | BY Katie Lange

There are few people in America nowadays who can make a legit meal out of roadkill and various leaves found in the woods. But if you’re looking for one of those people, there’s a good chance you’ll find them at the Army’s SERE course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 

SERE stands for survival, evasion, resistance and escape, and you guessed it -- it teaches DOD special forces how to survive in the wild and in isolation. 

Or, as SERE instructor and 25-year Army veteran Christopher Kibler put it, it’s going to “teach you about you.” 

“There are a lot of people who think they know about themselves. They have no concept about themselves until they’re cold, wet, tired, hungry and miserable,” Kibler said. “Until everything is stripped away from you, down to nothing, you don’t know how tough you are.”

Airman carves spoon while other airman watches
Airman Survival
A U.S. Air Force Airman Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape specialist shows a SERE candidate how to carve a wooden spoon at Camp Bullis, Texas, Aug. 17, 2015. SERE specialists continue to give advice, training, and encouragement while conducting a care and use inspection of the SERE candidate’s tools. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Chisholm/Released)
Photo By: Air Force photo
VIRIN: 150819-F-OL185-026

That’s especially true for some of the fittest, toughest soldiers, who are often humbled by the course. 

“Big, stout, muscle-bound dudes don’t do good when you take food from them,” Kibler said. “When you’re used to 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day, then you go down to nothing, it gets pretty rough on you.” 

Thankfully, our service members didn’t have to go through that when they met Kibler for this interview. Instead, he took them to Fort Bragg’s Camp Mackall, where he taught them some tricks for survival with a backyard barbeque:

02:44

Not up for watching the video? Just know it includes a boiled deer leg, easily digestible broadleaf plantain, wild carrots and lamb’s quarters for a spinach-like flavor. But no mushrooms! 

“Out in the woods, mushrooms are bad things. Only about 1 percent of mushrooms are edible, so mushrooms are a no-go,” Kibler said. 

At SERE, They Can Discriminate

Judging by the sheer purpose of the school, it comes as no surprise that they won’t put up with much from slacking service members. 

“We want professionals. We want guys who can be the best of the best,” Kibler said. “You can’t build that fire? I’ll throw you out of this course. I taught you how to build that fire. You failed it once? We’re going to retest you. You failed it a second time? You’re gone. … If you can’t uphold the standard, we probably don’t need you.”

Kibler’s Background 

Kibler worked at SERE school as a soldier from 1993 to 1996. After retirement in 2003, he went back to work as a civilian and has been there ever since. He even trains the school’s instructors. 

01:21

“It takes about a year to train up an instructor to do this job, and they’re here three years,” Kibler said. “Not many guys in the Army do this for a living.” 

The school’s tactics help make service members less vulnerable targets to the enemy. Their goal? 

“I try to keep those guys alive,” Kibler said. “I want every one of them to be a happy, fat old grandparent someday.”