MILITARY PROFILE: A week at arctic survival school

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska We followed Captain Gordon Blair based at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota through his week at Eielson's Arctic Survival School.

Airmen share a 1-acre section during part of Arctic Survival School

He is an instructor pilot on UH1N helicopter. Although he has completed a previous survival training course, this one focused on different skills specific to the Arctic.

In an interview before the class went out into the field, Blair says he loves the outdoors and was excited to hone in the skills he has been learning.

The Thursday portion of the course is a solo portion of the class where each airman gets their own 1 acre section of the training area to make shelter and stay overnight. Due to the number of participants, Blair shared his 1-acre section with a fellow airman.

Airmen share a 1-acre section during survival school

The class Blair participated in had warm temperatures of 40-50 degrees, where some classes have 20-40 below temperature.

"You know I wouldn't say I'm necessarily nervous, I'm pretty excited, I'm an outdoors enthusiast, I love being outside, and honestly the chance to kind of hone those skills, that sometimes we gain in our personal lives, but hone it in to the ability to survive in our professional capabilities as well.”

Blair also talked about the differences between simulated training and real life scenarios.

“There's always that voice in the back of your head that 'you're like oh yeah okay I'm gonna go home in two days, but at the same time, you are out here surviving, you do have to collect water. If we don't generate water, you're not gonna have a fun two days. So all that kind of prep, as we go into it, in a real survival situation, could mean life or death…”

With any survival situation there are always questions that you need to ascertain in order to successfully survive. Blair threw out questions like, “…do we need to travel? Do we need to get out of here? Do we need to try to get some recovery? Or is our best bet sit still?”

Arctic Survival School

“If we crashed in an aircraft, we may want to sit still, the wreckage is going to be an easily identified site, and so if we sit still, hunker down, with limited resources, we don't want to expend too much energy, and we can wait, we can use our radios…”, he continued.

It is also important to set up a signaling device, like a fire or signaling mirrors, so that when search crews and rescue assets do come in its easier to get their attention.

"This is my test run, this is the only test run I may get, so I'm gonna try to max it out as much as possible."