Female Air Commando teaches SERE

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Naomi Griego
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Most people associate eating bugs and living in the woods in below freezing temperatures as an undesirable experience. But for a 5-foot-3 Airman, it's where she feels most at home.

Senior Airman Charlene Plante is a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist for the 1st Special Operations Support Squadron.

"Ever since I joined the Air Force, I've celebrated every birthday in the woods and it's been great," Plante said.

She taught SERE at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., for four years and currently teaches a refresher course at Hurlburt Field.

Plante is one of about a dozen females who have successfully made it through the training to become a SERE instructor.

In an Air Force where women comprise 18.9 percent of the active-duty population, Plante is an anomaly.

"I just had to be mentally strong and not give up," she said. "When I was in training, I had a team that helped each other out and encouraged one another."

About 50 percent of SERE instructors don't make it through initial training.

"There was a point during training where I was literally so tired I was falling asleep shoveling snow," Plante said. "However, the worst part of training was eating the egg omelet MRE."

Plante said she normally works 12-hour days.

"When I am instructing, I usually have to be up and ready to go around 5 a.m.," she said. "I love doing what I do because I enjoy helping people."

Even after six years in her career field, Plante said she still has a hard time explaining to her family what she does.

"My parents don't really know exactly what SERE is, so I just tell them I'm in the woods a lot," she said.

Plante said her job is to ensure aircrew are able to survive on their own in any environment under any conditions should their aircraft go down. She said she's taught everything from how to build a shelter to how to catch meals using only a wire snare trap.

"During one of my classes at Fairchild, it was so cold my boots literally froze," she said.

Plante said she has killed ducks, chickens and squirrels in order to survive in the woods. 

"When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually say, 'You wouldn't believe me even if I told you,'" she said.