Having returned to Nairobi on August 20, I was ready to assist with the Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT). Before the Nairobi HEAT, I needed to settle into my new apartment in Westlands. My apartment at the Gardens Apartments was a two bedroom on the sixth floor of a six story building. The thing with Nairobi, however, no elevators! This meant stairs and lots of exercise…just don’t forget anything!
We had been working up this training for a few weeks by this point. The office of corporate security training team descended upon Nairobi to look for a new venue. Staying at the 5 star Southern Sun Hotel, we held our meetings poolside over cocktails. For the most part, this was the same team that arrived in Haiti a year earlier. There were a few additions to guest instructors which included security personnel from the region.
Again, during our preparation meetings, we were asked how was the “mission love”. I was starting to think the OCS security team had nothing better to think about.
The training would be conducted over a period of 4 days at the Humanitarian and Peace Support School. This school is located in the Embakasi military base near the Nairobi International Airport. We would train 40+ participants on a budget of $130,000 USD, or $3,250 per participant.
The venue is a perfect venue for conducting training. The UN offers a variety of courses here as well and we were fortunate to have found it. To this date, World Vision continues to use Nairobi as a principal venue for HEAT and other INGO’s have also started using it.
Waking up and walking to breakfast here is always a treat, the gazelles and wildlife are plenty all around. The only real risk, other than the black cotton, are the black mamba snakes, which are common here. Some of the Kenyan soldiers sweep the venue each morning to scare them off. The only one I ever saw was a dead one, fortunately.
Invitation to Participants
On August 18 an email was sent out to participants. Participants only had one day to complete their registration and return it to the training administrators.
Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT)
Objective: This course will focus on how to improve security awareness, on risk avoidance behavior and ultimately on the practical skills to handle personal security.
Content: The learning modules will include training such as Behavior Under Fire, Behaviors at a Check Point, IDP/Refugee Camps & Commodity Distributions, Hostage Survival, Surveillance Detection, Quick Run Bags / Distress Marking / Signals, Situational Awareness, Improvised Explosive Devices, Target Hardening, Stress / Trauma, Trauma First Aid / Triage, etc.
For this course, real scenario-based exercises are a vital part of the learning process. They allow for students to test their own abilities and skills without creating a false sense of confidence.
The only change to the course since my Florida experience was that the name changed. The scenario location was Navarkia in Florida and changed to Ganton.
Ganton is generally considered the most stable country in the region. It is sandwiched between the South Federation to the East and Westland to the West. Both of which have ongoing conflicts which could impact on the state of security in Ganton.
A large proportion (estimated at 62 per cent) of GANTON’s population is of Friscan origin, and it is estimated by the Ganton government that as many as 500,000 refugees from fighting in the South Federation are present in Ganton. Events across both the eastern and western borders thus have the potential to resonate strongly in Ganton.
Once participants arrived, they are immediately thrust into scenario, the same as Florida and all future HEAT courses.
One of the great things about the HPSS venue was the realism we could offer our participants. There is a small village that allows for many of the scenarios to play out in the actual context. Tukols were built to simulate an African village, a mosque was under construction and there was a town, as you can see in some of the pictures.
Following each scenario, we would debrief the participants. This would reinforce what people observed in themselves, how they could do things differently or not. If there was time, some scenarios would be run twice. The traffic accident and checkpoints are always run twice for the experience and refining skills.
Being an instructor was much nicer than being a participant, as I was in Florida. Andries always referred to the field exercises like a sausage factory, just running participants through. There were so many moving parts behind the scenes that went unnoticed. Pulling of a successful training required the effort of the training team, but also volunteers.
Anywhere from 20-60 or more volunteers are required to pull off a successful HEAT course. Generally the volunteers are from the community, but HPSS had a professional contingent of volunteers. I say volunteers loosely as they are paid, nothing in life comes for free. During the field exercises, they are role players at the various stations.
During a simulated night attack, we use the Kenyan military to support the attack. This is probably the most fun activity. Since we had the use of the military weapons, our own simulators and C4 for actual blasts, it is as realistic as it gets.
The final activity, the kidnap, volunteers are used as role players and pieces of the machine. This is where there is a lot of movement of people to various locations after the take down. It is quite a task when, for training purposes, we kidnap 40 participants. Again, we also have the same resources for this as in the night attack, making it as realistic as possible.
As in Florida, the final dinner is a celebration for the participants. They were rewarded for completing the training with a small booty. Each participant is given a t-shirt, a first aid kit and a few other small survival type items. Some are awarded gifts for best overall, best buddy-buddy team, most improved, etc.
Unfortunately, this venue does not allow for a lot of time after between participants and instructors. Most instructors have to depart immediately as all flights out of Nairobi are in the evening. This does not always allow much time. Some instructors stay an extra couple of days, to take in some local tourism. This instance, Doug had planned an extra couple of days. So the day after the training, Doug and I decided to see some of what Nairobi had to offer.
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