WVOCS Hostage Survival
In July of 2010, we embarked on a new training for our international staff. As the kidnapping threat in Haiti was high, hostage survival was an important skill to learn. Prior to the training, my team (Dominique) were quite active in securing a venue.Dominque was able to find a location that suited the classroom based training with the table top exercise. This venue would be used for the theory portion. We would then go on to use the Black Mountain team house for the practical portion.
When my team was ready, it was time for the OCS training team to descend in force. The team consisted of:
- Doug – Trainer
- Phil – Trainer
- Bill – Trainer Medic
- Don – Psychologist, Headington Institute
- Andries Dreyer – Director of Training
- Jim – Training Support
Arrival of Team
The team did not all arrive at the same time. Doug, Phil and Bill arrived in the first wave followed by Don, Andries, and Jim. They had to bring in a lot of equipment as well for the training, including the Airsoft brand weapons. These looked like the real deal…once the orange safety caps were painted over! Getting this into Haiti also appeared to have been a challenge for the team.
The first day we did a walk-through of the training venues. The first being the class room venue. Since I was still new to the training side of things, Afghanistan being my only real exposure, I learned. Doug was really fun to work with as was Bill. Phil was a little strange, and fell sick not long after arriving.
At the end of the day, the entire team had gathered at their hotel for drinks and dinner. Andres still had not arrived, but he was on his way. I was told he was the Big Gorilla. Interesting fact, Andries is Carmen’s husband, if you recall Carmen brought me into CARE. I had yet to meet either one up until this point.
When the “Big Gorilla” arrived, I saw where he got the name. Entering in was Andries, 6’ 4” and full of muscles…sound like a song you know! I could not resist, but he did make an appearance. Even with the facial hair, this burley South African was definitely a Bear. We exchanged pleasantries and off he went to stow his kit.
Dinner and Drinks
When Andries had stowed his kit and freshened up, he joined the team for dinner. We sat outside at a table in the restaurant. Haiti, still long from recovery, the hotels where what they were. It was at this dinner that the light bulb clicked regarding World Vision. Up until now, I had thought that a Christian organization was just that. How wrong I was.
During our drinks, one of the first questions I was asked was: “So, how is the Mission Love?”. I had never heard this term before, Mission Love. And being in a Christian organization, had even less of an idea. At any rate, the question was asked and my World Vision virginity was lost. Mission Love was apparently a thing and this OCS training team was hungry to know.
I could only respond that I had no idea, never heard of it and was quite happily married (at that time). Attempting to change this subject was not easy, and I definitely was feeling uncomfortable. Eventually we got on track and discussed the training. I would learn over my time with WV how the training team enjoyed having “eye candy” in their classes.
Ransom & Negotiations
The first day of the training was another surprise. For the first time, I was able to see professionals training a high-level topic. But that was not the surprise, enter 6 uniformly dressed trainers. Not dressed in suits…but uniforms! Recall one of my earlier lessons with Alex with CARE. I mean, this was so military looking…World Vision had an army, and not Christian Soldiers.
The classroom portion objectives included:
- World Vision policy for Hostage Incident Management
- Understand the functions of the Executive, Regional and National Crisis Management Teams
- What are the procedure and organization when a hostage incident occurs
- What are the contingency plans and what support teams being to be established
- To ensure the timely and safe return of the hostage(s)
- Contingency plans for all aspects of the hostage taking period and release
There was also a half day table top exercise. During this exercise, participants had to come together to rescue a hostage. The table top exercise is a good one with several different injects. Injects would arrive based on participant actions or reactions. Some were video injects, which have gotten better over the years.
At the end of the table top exercise, the hostages were either executed or released. This was also done by video inject depending on how the instructors evaluated the process (above).
Day two of the training was a half day of in class hostage survival followed by an actual take down. After lunch, we inform the participants that we have to change venues. Here is where we actually kidnap the participants. While they are kidnapped, they go through a process:
- Holding area
- Useless work
- Awkward positions
But first they need to be taken.
The Take Down
The participants loaded into vehicles, thinking they were going to another venue. We had drivers drive them up to the team house on Black Mountain. Once the vehicles entered the team house property, the instructors would pounce. Coming out of everywhere quickly and dressed like militia, the participants were extracted from the vehicles.
Once out of the vehicles, the participants were placed face first on the ground. From here, in an organized manner, they would be led to a holding area. Blindfolded and hand bound, they were watched by instructors.
From holding, participants are then one at a time, taken to be interrogated. Doug was our primary interrogator, and he was good! Don would watch the interrogations and monitor the mental stress levels on the participants. WV does have a good psycho-social mechanism in place for this.
After being interrogated, the participants are transported to an area to do some useless task. This lasts about 20 minutes before being returned to holding. During the holding time, participants are placed in awkward positions. Sometimes holding objects or having simulated urination from water bottles.
The Gaffs of Haiti
The kidnap portion was done twice to two different groups. There were three goofs that are in a way comical and in a way sad. Recall, we used regular drivers for this, and no one informed them beforehand what was going on.
The first day, one of the drivers was taken by the instructors. No one singled him out as a driver so he was processed as the rest. When it came his turn for interrogation, it was noticed that he had released himself (urinated). Doug quickly looked at the name tag, which identified him as a driver. He was quickly taken out of scenario and debriefed by Don. I can only imagine his fear as he thought it was real.
During the second day, the vehicles entered the Black Mountain compound. At the time of the take down and all the participants were removed from the vehicles, the last vehicle made a run. Again, driver not informed. He immediately backed out of the compound and raced back to Petionville. Fearing that our next visitors would be the Haitian National Police, we started contingency planning. We did eventually find the driver and were able to calm him…but he took more convincing.
Finally, on the third day, one of the participants decided to get adventurous. Faking a need to go to the toilet, his restraints were removed. At this time, he immediately made a swing for our big gorilla, Andries. Now, both men were even both in size and stature, so this was going to be interesting. Next to a retaining wall, surely one would fall the 2-meter height. Luckily, Andries had other instructors for support. It took 4 of us, including Andries to take this man down.
In the end, the training was a success. Some 40 international staff were trained in hostage negotiation and kidnap survival techniques. This was my first real taste of this style of training and definitely not my last.
Next – The Good Times