Day 2: The Calm before the Storm? Security training before heading to a conflict area

Nadim is undergoing an intense security training. Here is his blogpost for second day of training.

Today will be the second and last day in class. The next half of the security training program would take place in the field. To get us ready, here are some of the topics that were covered:
  • Communications: More on Alpha Tango Bays, wavelengths and communication “etiquette” (Don’t, repeat, don’t, repeat; keep messages short and to the point; etc.)
  • signs of stress and how to overcome stress (more on this below);
  • driving guidelines (on staggered driving, avoiding breaches in the convoy);
  • personal protection and how common sense and experience are our best allies in enhancing individual safety and the safety of the group;
  • all sorts of mnemonics (“five C’s”; “seven W’s”) to recall what to do in cases of various types of incidents (mainly improvised explosive devices; direct gunfire; hostage taking; suspicious sightings.)

All goes quite smoothly with our group of 13 getting together in groups and subgroups and building the kind of camaraderie that we can tell will be needed in the coming two days.
Isn’t it all (or a big part of coping) about your state of mind?

The session on stress, in my view, was not particularly helpful, considering the vital importance of the topic. After going through a list of signs of stress (irritable, overeat, over-drink, exhausted, etc.) there was a lighthearted identification and listing of possible things to do to counter stress (exercise, stop and relax, music, …)

There was little time or opportunity to address three key points on stress—stated in my non-specialist terms:

  • (i) stress is normal;
  • (ii) recognizing our own stress levels and symptoms and our own coping mechanisms helps us ensure that we can control our behavior in the extremely stressful situations we are being asked to train on; and
  • (iii) “dry-runs” involved especially in the field exercises will help us ensure that we have additional inputs to add to a crucial coping mechanism: experience of “having been there and done that”.

But not to worry, I’m pretty sure these points can be made in the next two days.

As a public service, let me share here one neat mnemonic concerning personal security that could be useful to anyone, whether in formally hostile or not-so-hostile environments. It conveniently comes under the SAFER acronym, standing for:

  • Stay aware of surroundings;
  • Avoid routine (alternative routes, times etc.);
  • Follow security instructions;
  • Exercise common sense;
  • Remain anonymous and show strength.

I’ll stop here and hope to report on some of the other more existential questions (why are these people here? What is the link between relief and development?) in the last two days of training…perhaps.