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Josh Smith
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Josh Smith

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It felt a little like scout camp today. But instead of blowing up bug spray in campfires, we were talking about things like grenades and mortars – things that really blow up.
We started out with a lot more first aid. Basic CPR at first, and then we got to dealing with traumatic injuries like gunshot wounds and amputations, all the nasty stuff. The lesson from that was that catastrophic bleeding trumps any other problems: Life over limb, and crazy bleeding over breathing. We learned how to pack and bandage gunshot wounds and how to apply tourniquets for major bleeding, both on ourselves and others. Apparently the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have brought tourniquets back into use, saving lives if not always limbs. They also taught us how to bandage an impaled object.
In the afternoon we split into groups for a “field trip” outside. We were given a trauma kit and rotated through three people who had different wounds ranging from gunshots to impaled glass to major squirting lacerations. They had a lot of fake blood (including squirting blood) and injuries that would make a theater make-up artist proud, and the “casualties” acted in a way that was pretty effective at making it seem chaotic. I wouldn’t give us high marks for being particularly crisp or efficient but I think everyone survived.
Later on we had lessons on different types of projectiles like grenades, mortars, and artillery. Generally the key is to hit the ground (or get in a hole, if possible), and don’t try running until you’re sure what’s going on. They also talked about a range of small arms and ammunition, its range, what it will go through, etc. The point was not to make us any kind of weapons experts (one of the British instructors joked that there are enough gun experts in America where we “use guns to order pizza”), but so we know what me might be dealing with in any given area. They also gave us a briefing on protective wear like body armor and helmets. As they basically ended on the note that body armor can be very limited and few basic building materials will stop an average assault rifle, they promised that tomorrow they’ll explain more about how to avoid problems and survive.
We finished up by making make-shift stretchers, which definitely brought back memories of scouting. Luckily we didn’t drop anyone, too hard anyways. They don’t outline the agenda here, but tomorrow we’re supposed to show up early so they can fit us with body armor and helmets. Wish me luck J
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Josh Smith

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In case you were wondering I can now tell you how to get yourself out of a minefield and check for trip wires (the theory anyways); how and in what ways a type of mine can kill/maim you; where/how to sit in a restaurant to avoid kidnapping/mugging/bomb blasts (face to the door, away from windows, check for ways out, appoint a look out, etc.); which floor and rooms of a hotel to stay in (2nd through 7th and away from exits, vending machines, etc); how to safely ride in a taxi and walk down the sidewalk; as well as, as a last resort, how to stab an attacker with a pen/credit card/keys and then run like crazy.

I'm just starting a week of what's called "hostile environment and first aid" training with a company called Centurion in the United Kingdom. We're staying at a complex on an old estate about half an hour outside of London. The instructors are all old British military guys, a rather colorful lot.

Today we got a briefing on landmines and improvised explosive devices, including a walk through a "camp" with exploding booby traps. FYI: A lot of landmines look like anything but, and trip wires can be almost impossible to spot. We also had the first of several first aid classes, starting today with basic first aid. In the coming days we're supposed to get to the the scenarios where they spray fake blood all over us.

I am one of two Americans in this particular class, and one of four journalists. Many of the rest in the class of 13 are from the UK, as well as France and Nigeria. They include private contractors and employees for non governmental organizations.

Some of the information is stuff I hope I never have to use, but I have to say it's incredibly interesting, and there's plenty I think that can help in even basic travel.

Stay tuned...
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