Travel | Hostile Environment Training

Hostile Environment Training

What would you do if you had to go to a dangerous country? How would you prepare? What would you do if something went wrong? 

One phone call can completely change your perspective on travelling to a high risk country. I thought I knew what I was getting in to when I agreed to go to Damascus, Syria. My government has withdrawn diplomatic staff and I’ve received a letter informing me that there is no form of assisted departure to British nationals in the region. Nor is there an evacuation procedure in place. Basically, if I go I’m stuck with my own arrangements and safety, which sounds rather ominous as the clock ticks down to me going where I need to go to do what I need to do.

Hostile attacks aren’t accidental

So, back to this phone call from someone I know has done plenty of hard time in hostile environments and has dealt with being a target and held against his wishes (that’s the polite way of how he described being a hostage). ‘Nothing that happens to you will be by chance’, he said. ‘Forget the notion that you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s rubbish…. You’ll be taken because they know you’re there to be taken or you’ll be shot because it’s convenient for what they say their cause is all about, or it could be just about the money. What you need to be doing is seriously assess whether you’ve planned and prepared enough….and then planned some more and reassessed what the risk is every day…. and whether you being in that place makes the difference or is as important as you believe.’

So, that was the scary part. Next came the solutions and the harder talk.

Ask yourself tough questions

Can I remain calm and think clearly when the situation escalates? Am I making myself a target because I walk without purpose and stand out? Do I understand what constitutes an opportunity and what is just my slant on things and will quickly get me into a bad situation? At what point do I go from ‘calm’ to ‘connect’ (assuming someone wants my company and I don’t want theirs, at all)? What is my answer when they ask about the war and the bombing and how authentic or correct is my dialect when I try to explain in their language, because even if I try then it helps my situation out.

Hostile Environment Training

Then I’ve got to think on a separate level about the training I’ve done. Sure, it’s OK when I’m practicing in a sedate Buckinghamshire facility about capitalising and escaping but as my phone-call advisor told me, ‘…you think you can rationalise clearly when all you want is to go to the bathroom and no one is going to let you do that. This isn’t a game. You are making choices by being where you need to be and you need to know the consequences. Understand? Let’s get back to basics. You need the toilet. What should you do?

And he was right. The training is the ‘basics’ as I can’t call on experience (yet) and I don’t know what it’s like to be under the pressure and stress of a war zone incident. The core of what I need to know is all covered by my training. I just have to know how to use it. And when. Hostile Environment Training (HET) isn’t cheap, but then neither is my welfare. There are options out there for you to connect to and the advice is equally important for whether you’re coming with me to Damascus, or planning a trip to France. Good sense is always good sense.

For more information on HET, visit the battleface Resources page.