KITTERY, Maine (NNS) -- Center for Security Forces Detachment Kittery celebrated its 50th year of training military personnel as part of the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) School during a ceremony July 6.
SERE training was developed to provide personnel with the technical knowledge, practical experience, and personal confidence to survive, evade, resist, and escape enemy captivity.
The SERE School, which moved from Naval Air Station Brunswick to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 2010, celebrated its birthday by inviting former SERE instructors to share advice with current instructors and students.
Ninety former instructors were on hand for the all day birthday celebration, two of which were former Prisoners of War (POW) - retired Cmdr. Robert Fant, and retired Cmdr. Timothy Sullivan. Fant served as an Advanced SERE instructor from 1974-2004 and Sullivan served from 1983-1994 and was the Officer-in-Charge at the school. Both men were Radar Intercept Officers in F-4 Phantom jets and were shot down over North Vietnam.
"God, country, family, and my fellow POW's is how I made it through," said Fant. "The worst part was the first three weeks, since I was injured and they wouldn't give me any medical attention." Fant was seriously injured after his jet crashed, suffering numerous broken bones in his arm and legs. He was imprisoned for 1,693 days.
Sullivan suffered abrasions after ejecting from his aircraft and was captured and held for 1,945 days in a French prison. After getting released, both men were awarded the Legion of Merit and POW medals for their bravery and resistance to brutal treatment and depraved conditions. "I made it through one day at a time," said Sullivan. "It's mostly mental and lots of luck."
After the opening ceremony the group toured a new SERE museum, and then moved the celebration outside for a BBQ lunch. A cake-cutting ceremony honored the two POWs as well as Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) 2nd Class (NAC) Brandon Coccio, currently the youngest SERE instructor in the Navy at 23, and Jim Clay, the oldest and one of the original SERE instructors from 1962.
The SERE School employs about 100 military and civilian personnel and trains an average of 1,200 students per year. SERE training is 12 days, including six days of classroom training at the Rear Adm. Jeremiah A. Denton Jr. facility onboard the shipyard, and six days of field and practical training at the 12,500 acre Ralph Odem Training Facility in Redington, Maine.
For information on the Center for Security Forces visit https://www.netc.navy.mil/centers/csf/.
To learn more about the Naval Education and Training Command visit https://www.netc.navy.mil.
For more news from Naval Education and Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnet/.