Offutt SERE specialist wins Air Force award

  • Published
  • By Charles J. Haymond
  • 55th Wing/Public Affairs

The Air Force named Tech. Sgt. Ryan O’Rourke, 55th Operations Support Squadron Offutt survival, evasion, resistance and escape program flight chief, as the Air Force Special Warfare SERE Specialist Noncommissioned Officer of the Year in July 2022.

A SERE specialist equips and trains pilots and other warfighters on how to maintain life and honor and return home should they ever become isolated. They also become advocates for the isolated person, assist in the personnel recovery planning, and advise commands on their personnel’s recovery.

O’Rourke was the only qualified SERE specialist nominated for the NCO category from Offutt. Master Sgt. Clifton Cleveland, 55th OSS Offutt SERE program superintendent, nominated him for the award because he saw firsthand the hard work and dedication he exercised on the job.

“O’Rourke winning this extremely competitive award speaks volumes about his personal work ethic and the Offutt SERE program,” said Cleveland. “He did the work, I just put it down on paper. The award was much deserved, and it was both a pleasure and a privilege to nominate him.”

O’Rourke provided 1,115 hours of instructions to qualify or recertify combat mission ready aircrew members so units could continue their support of geographic combatant commanders around the world.

“O’Rourke’s hard work throughout the year and persistent drive to accomplish the mission resulted in 2,739 aircrew trained and 167 SERE refresher training events conducted,” said Cleveland. “These numbers are quite unprecedented, as no other program in ACC (and perhaps the entire Air Force) trained that amount of aircrew…with 50% manning. The result of this was our two-year training backlog being completely erased.”

Winning the award highlights his determination to stay on task until his duty is complete. However, O’Rourke gives the all the praise to his leadership and those around him.

“Winning awards is great, but the contents of the award package were accomplished because as a SERE shop we just want to continue to improve our program and better train and equip our aircrew for the environments they may potentially face in an isolating event,” said O’Rourke. “I don’t know if the award itself has motivated me to be better, but the support of my leadership and quality of the team here at Offutt always motivates me to continue striving to make improvements within our program and as a person in general.”