In early September 2010, I went on mandatory security training. There were two parts to this training, Security Risk Management (SRMT) and Hostile Environment Awareness (HEAT). Still new to World Vision, I was excited to be attending a training event. These two courses are done back-to-back during a seven-day period.

The Office of Corporate Security training team does these trainings six times per year. Not a bad gig, working six weeks a year for an annual salary. The venues at that time were located in the following locations:

  • Florida, USA
  • Jordan
  • Germany
  • Australia
  • South Africa – Cape Town

My particular course was in the Florida location, closer to Haiti I had imagined. But, it seems that limiting the students meant coming from all corners of the world. It was nice that an organization was taking security seriously in the humanitarian world, no matter the expense.

Florida SRMT

The venue for the SRMT was in Panama City Beach, Florida. Without a doubt, one had to explain to the travel agent what Panama City one was going to. If you were not specific, you would end up in Panama. Even so, Panama City, Florida was not easy to get to. My flight from Port-au-Prince went via Atlanta, Georgia.

It was a good trip, and the end result was well worth it. SRMT is held in the poshest of venues, the Holiday Inn Resort. We were all put up in this 5-star beach front hotel, what more could one ask for. For 3 days and 4 lovely nights, it was like my all-inclusive R&R trips…just with training involved. Nothing like having a few Pina Coladas on arrival and enjoying the white sandy beach.

This was also the first time I had seen the training team since they had come to Haiti for the K&R training. There was one addition to this team, however. Gerardo, the security manager from Honduras was here as a guest trainer. Gerardo was learning to take this training back to establish a new Latin American venue in Tegucigalpa.

Day 1

The first day of the training started off as all do in World Vision…Devotions. Following the devotions, we got into staff and student introductions. Then the training started. SRMT is for the most part death by PowerPoint, or it was then. Over the years it has become much more interactive.

Mainly an introduction into security risk management, documentation and negotiations skills. There were a few times we got to go outside for some mental challenges. These were mainly activities involving some strategy and thinking. Gerardo had a few good ones, that I enjoyed. One was using a bucket full of balls and trying to empty it into another bucket using only ropes and not being allowed to enter a circle.

Day 3

Day 2 was much the same as day 1, but day 3 was the Kidnap and Ransom (K&R) portion. Since I did this in Haiti, I was able to assist in the instruction. My first real start with working with the OCS Training Team.

In the afternoon was that table top exercise, as mentioned in my earlier post on Hostage. It is always interesting to see how the students negotiate a release of hostages. Always concessions are made, whether it be a monetary ransom or tangible items. In the end, whatever it takes to release hostages safely.

At the end of the SRMT, all the instructors and participants have a celebration group dinner. These were usually in some really fancy restaurant. In our instance, we went to the Grand Marlin, a fantastic seafood restaurant. Again, no expense was spared by WV for the meal and drinks. It was an amazing evening, the last before we entered into HEAT.

Florida HEAT

The morning after the SRMT, those that were continuing onwards to the HEAT course loaded up on buses. This was starting to feel like I was back in the military, being barked at by my drill instructors. The trainers played their parts well, from nicey nice to tough sergeants. During the bus ride to the HEAT venue, we were given two small courses. One on the buddy-buddy system and the other on how to use a radio.

Navarkia Arrival

Arriving at the venue, we were immediately put into scenario. The venue was somewhere in the middle of nowhere Florida. Remember also, this was in September, so black fly season and no-see-um season. We were told that we had just entered “Narvakia”, a location that was hostile. Given instructions to always carry our ID’s and never be without our assigned buddies.

We were assigned lodging in cabins, four participants in each. This is where I met Sean, who I would end up befriending. Sean, it turned out served in the Marine Corps the same time as I did, but he was a “Hollywood” marine, based in San Diego. Our other cabin mates were from countries in Africa, so they had come a long way.

First 2 Days

As in the SRMT course, the first two days were lectures in a class room. The only difference, we were always in scenario, so anything could happen. We learned a lot of first aid and first responder stuff from Bill. Bill, being a former military medic was well trained and knows his stuff. Bill and I would also get closer over the years.

There was more training on Hostage Survival on this course as well. Similar to what we had done in Haiti, it was going to happen to us. I was not excited about being taken, but it would be inevitable.

Last 2 days

The final two days of HEAT are all scenario based. We are split into two teams and given vehicles and assigned various tasks. Each task would encounter a scenario that we would have to resolve. These included things like:

  • Riots during a commodity distribution
  • Some behavior under fire scenarios
  • A road traffic accident (Scene Management)
  • Legal and Illegal checkpoints

Never know when the big one was going to happen, the “take down”. This was the last activity of the course, kidnapping 40 students! During the takedown, I had managed to ensure my cuffs were not that tight, so thoughts of escaping were in my mind from the onset. We were all blindfolded, the same as the Haitian context, and cuffed. We each had our turns being interrogated, but some of us had it more.

There was a “good cop” “bad cop” approach. The bad cop was pretty violent, having hit me several times during my interrogation. Thankfully I had managed to get free from my cuffs to block his final attempt, before Doc Don had to step in.

Final Dinner

At the end of the HEAT course, there was a great BBQ, beers and drinks for everyone. Prizes and awards were handed out to selected participants. I had won the “James Bond” award for successfully escaping the hostage scenario. Overall, the training was a lot of fun and a lot was taken out of it.

Finished HEAT
The training team of 2010

Next – 3 Emergencies in One

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