I remember SERE training, July 1968:

Sunday:   Sam Abolafia and I went to the Vesuvios Pizza Parlor to load up on pizza and beer.   The theory was that if we could eat enough pizza and drink enough beer ... we would be all set for SERE training!

Monday:   Class starts at 0800.   They start by teaching us about ocean survival.   They're showing us pictures of clams, mollusks and a bunch of other ocean dwelling creatures that you can "eat."    I don't need to eat anything because my stomach is still wrestling with that damn pizza I had the night before ... but I'm very happy.
Late in the afternoon we head to North Island for our night bivouac and I'm still full of pizza.
Evening, I make a half-hearted attempt to eat some of the sea going stuff, but once again, Vesuvios is holding it's own.   I remember curling up in my parachute that evening trying to go to sleep, with the biggest case of heart burn I've ever had, when I burped, smoke came out.

Tuesday:   Bright and early, they haul our asses up and we receive some additional training.   Then it's off to Warner Springs.   We arrive at about 1300 or maybe 1400, I forget, does it matter?
We receive indoctrination on desert survival.   If you can eat sand, you've got it made.   They talk about eating snakes, mice, bugs and virtually everything else on this planet that gives you the tendency to loose Vesuios pizza, which is starting to wane about this time.
They talk about night evasion and resistance.   They talk about an exercise that we will have to perform "at night" that requires us to evade the communist aggressors and crawl under barbed wire to freedom.   I can't remember if we had night evasion on Tuesday or Wednesday, I guess it had to have been on Tuesday because by Wednesday, my pizza had worn off and I could have eaten the sand.

Wednesday:   By this time in the SERE training, "I was hungry!"   I remember sitting on a rock and eye-balling a lizard.   I threw my knife at this damn meal but he/she quickly avoided the projectile and departed the area.
Later that afternoon some instructors show up with some pets.   The pets turned out to be rabbits ... and they were delicious.
That night, we were raided by the communist aggressors.   They captured our camp and showed us the t-shirt that Friday's aggressors would be wearing and naturally, this t-shirt was XXX rated!

Thursday:   Woke up and mustered for our 14 mile navigation hike. Seven miles out and seven miles back, naturally the Seals in the class jogged the course.
This was a tough day.   My Vesuvios pizza was but a faint memory, even the rabbits from yesterday seemed like last month.
At the end of the 14 mile hike we were VERY tired.   Some folks in the group really had a hard time.   I learned that the older guys took on the leadership roles during the first seven miles, while the younger men became the leaders on the last seven.   The lesson:   We work as a team to get everyone through.

Friday:   Fairly early in the morning we are picked up by some heavy duty trucks and taken to the "Daytime Evasion" course.   We had been lectured on how to successfully evade the enemy during the day.   Things like; move from bush to bush; don't walk across a road, get down and roll over the road.
I was rolling over the f----g road when I was captured by the "Communist Aggressors."   I had heard that some of our more athletic students literally ran through the course and had the opportunity to enjoy milk and sandwiches.   Remember, you had to make it to some shed (safe house) and turn the light on ... or something like that.

The "Prisoner of War" phase of the training consisted of:
    - Being tortured with water.
    - Being interrogated with either a junior or senior petty officer as your partner.   They would ask one of you a question and then smack the other.
    - Being thrown into the "Two Man" box, then after a while being moved to the really cramped "One Man" box, the lid of which was closed by one of the interrogators jumping up and down on it."
    - Being confined in the prisoner of war camp.

During the evening, we would all gather around in an area to listen to a very talented "Communist Aggressor" present a commentary about Marx or Engels and wisdom of Communism.   Naturally we were all thinking (F--K You) but, the person that made the presentation on that early July evening in 1968 could join my team anytime.   He was very eloquent ... but, I still said F--K You.   I'd been trained to absolutely hate these bastards and if I would get a chance, he would be in a bag.

That Friday night we had the opportunity to sleep but were rousted from that sleep many times and each time we had to muster for a head count.   At one of these musters, we were offered a meal that consisted of virtually every vegetable you hated as a kid ... I had no trouble eating every drop of the stuff.   We also had to turn around and render a salute to the Viet Cong flag.

Saturday:   Was just more of the same: more musters, lectures, and more interrogations; ever try to clean up a very dry loose dirt prison camp!   I felt sorry for the senior officers in our group as their situation was HELL, but they stayed the course. We lost one person from the group as he totally broke down during interrogation and one other was taken away as he had tried to battle one of the guards and suffered a broken upper arm. Luckily neither of these men was from our group of swiftees.

Sunday:   At 0430 we are up once again, and again take a muster as part of these perpetual bed checks.   The camp commandant lectured us on what a corrupted society we were from and that we were essentially a bunch of F-----D up people.   He then said that it was a tradition to salute his flag because it was the most powerful flag representing the best and most powerful nation in the world.   People came from all over the world to pay respect to this flag and join her people.   He then ordered us to turn around and pay homage to this glorious flag.   We turned around expecting to see the usual Viet Cong flag, but it turned out to be the "Stars and Stripes of the United States of America."   My god we all lost it, it was very emotional and we learned a lesson, our sweet country should never be taken for granted and that she was worth fighting for ... any time ... any where!

The program was over, but they still had one more surprise left for us.   We were told to walk towards the camp gate, once there we found all the guards, interrogators, everyone one involved with the SERE program, there at Werner Springs, handing out canteen cups.   The first one contained hot coffee, a most welcome treat on that cold morning in the mountains, the second cup contained oatmeal, now I have always hated oatmeal but that cupful, that morning, became the most delicious I had ever tasted.

The only thing left was to board the buses, that would take us back to the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, and one of the longest and most welcomed nights sleep ever.   It was surprising that it took most of the next week before we could again eat three full meals a day, but we sure did try!
 

As related by RD3 Mark Erwin Bell and retold by Larry Wasikowski.