Survival and Resistance Under Extreme Conditions

03.28.17 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Sometimes eating bugs may be the right thing to do.

“When food is limited and insects are available, they can become a valuable food source.”

That bit of practical wisdom comes from a new US Air Force Handbook on Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) Operations that was published this week.

However, “Caterpillars with hairs should be avoided. If eaten, the hairs may become lodged in the throat causing irritation or infection.”

More promisingly, “The praying mantis. . . contains 58 percent protein, 12 percent fat, three percent ash, vitamin B complex, and vitamin A. The insect’s outer skeleton is an interesting compound of sugar and amino acids.”

The Air Force Handbook addresses the needs of an Air Force individual who has been captured or otherwise isolated by accident or operational mishap. Whatever his or her mission may have been before, the new mission immediately becomes to “return to friendly control without giving aid or comfort to the enemy, to return early and in good physical and mental condition.”

The 652-page Handbook provides detailed guidance on how, with good fortune, that might be accomplished.

The military SERE program became somewhat notorious in recent years because early post-9/11 CIA interrogation techniques such as water-boarding were derived in part from SERE training. The new Air Force SERE Handbook makes only passing reference to torture and interrogation and does not mention water-boarding.