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Survivors ready?

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFPN) -- It's 4 a.m. and Senior Airman Richard Haro gets ready to walk more than six miles to work. He pulls on a 50-pound rucksack and winds his way through base housing, around the flightilne toward the survival school where he works.

After a full day of teaching aircrew members the basics of survival, evasion, resistance and escape, he runs or rides his mountain bike home. Sometimes he doesn't go home at all because he's in the nearby alpine forests for up to nine days showing trainees how to avoid capture, eat off the land and find their way to a rescue point.

It's a grueling routine he's maintaincd for the past two months, but one that's preparing him for a 250-mile race through the Alaskan wilderness in June. His four-person, mixed-gender squad will compete against 26 teams in the first Armed Forces Eco-Challenge, where winners earn a spot in the annual international Eco-Challenge scheduled for October in New Zealand.

A total of 32 Air Force members -- active duty, Guard and Reserve -- comprise almost half of the competitors for the course. They will be joining 52 soldiers, sailors and Marines who will line up at midnight on June 21 in a location kept secret until 24 hours prior to race start.

Beginning on the day when Alaska has almost 24 hours of daylight, teams must canoe icy 35-degree waters, bike up and over mountain passes, climb and rappel past nature's obstacles, and literally run their way through the course, stopping only an hour or two to sleep. Allowed only a compass and maps provided by race officials, team members will traverse the terrain carrying in everything they need and carrying out everything they use.

The time limit for finishing is six days, but Haro said his team -- called Team SERE - is training to do it in 4 1/2 days, meaning they'll have to cover more than 63 miles a day.

"We feel pretty confident in our abilities because most of the required skills are things we've learned while performing our job as survival instructors," Haro said. "We're skilled in glacier hiking, and a couple of us have scaled Mount Rainier. We know how to use the ropes and canoes. What we don't have certification on, such as ice climbing, we are getting through the base Outdoor Adventure Program staff."

Race officials require certification in all areas of the skills used, and there'll even be a pre-race skills test to ensure the teams are qualified to compete.

The race will be filmed and aired at a later date on the Discovery Channel, and the winning team will be featured as Team TAPS in the New Zealand race. Other teams with Air Force members are Team Boise Air National Guard's Herk Racers, Team Alaska Alr Guard, Team Tier One, Team Vigilance and the Wild Blue Adventure Racing team.
COPYRIGHT 2001 U.S. Air Force, Air Force News Agency
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Senior Airman Richard Haro teaches survival skills, while preparing for the Armed Forces Eco-Challenge
Author:Petitt, Karen
Publication:Airman
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Words:483
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