With the number of full-fledged and low-intensity conflicts across the world increasing both in size and number, a new course has become as essential as inoculation shots for a host of journalists, aid workers and civilian contractors preparing for deployment overseas – Hostile Environment Training.
The logic behind it is: if you would not send a soldier to a war zone unprepared; why would you send anyone else?
However, there has been a shift of late in the types of areas that would require such a preparatory course. Where before it would be essential only for work in an actual combat zone, the change in tactics employed by certain Islamist terrorist organisations like ISIS and Boko Haram towards hostage taking for financial gain and propaganda purposes means that many low-intensity conflict and even non-combat zones are rife with danger for the unprepared.
To counter this surging threat, several companies are offering training which aims to teach participants to identify, plan for, and avoid negative situations that they would not be exposed to in a normal working environment. Based on both classroom and practical instruction, these courses frequently incorporate simulation of kidnapping and hostage situations.
Knowledge of escape and evasion techniques, including ‘living in captivity’, orienteering skills and how to ‘live off the land’ are now practical knowledge that journalists, aid volunteers and even office workers are required to possess by certain employers.
An essential element of every course is first aid training. An increasing number of companies who have employees in unstable regions would like them to possess skills like managing bullet trauma and severe injuries like severed limbs which are common in IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attacks.
Another significant constituent of these programs is the ‘prevention is better than cure’ concept. Customised to the area of deployment, this aims to educate students on recognising and adhering to customs and traditions of the local populace to avoid becoming conspicuous and attracting unwanted attention. Besides the more serious eventualities considered, this attention may also lead to opportunistic theft and simple physical violence, particularly against women.
Weapons training is another segment that often forms a part of these courses; it seems handguns, automatic and semi-automatic rifles, mines and even grenade launchers are no longer just for the soldier or security contractor. However, the focus here is on identifying these arms instead of firing them; the ability to accurately inform security teams of what sort of armaments the enemy possesses is crucial to both avoiding and minimising casualties.
Other concepts too, like four-wheel driving to planning routes to reduce exposure to IEDs and even dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) are encroaching into the world of the non-combatant.
The unfortunate state of affairs of the world, particularly the readiness of terrorist organisations to employ a modus operandi of targeting innocents means that Hostile Environment Training is in demand more than ever before. It would be prudent for the individual looking to work in many regions across the world, and for companies planning to send their employees there, to sign up for one.