Staying Out of Harm's Way
An “attacker” fires a modified rocket-propelled grenade at personnel during training.
Into the War Theater
Staying Out of Harm’s Way
The two-car convoy was moving slowly down a narrow mountain road when suddenly there was a loud bang. An explosion struck the first vehicle, and it was immediately enveloped by smoke.
Realizing that the first vehicle had been hit by an improvised explosive device (IED), agents in the second car prepared to get their wounded teammates to safety—but they soon had problems of their own. Emerging from their SUV, they were ambushed from the tree line. Small-arms fire in the form of bright red and yellow paintballs pelted the doors and windows of both vehicles, and the agents were forced to take cover and return fire before trying to rescue the injured.
About This Series
The IED, though loud and smoky, was simulated, and the paintballs were not deadly—although they could easily raise a stinging welt on the skin. But the scenario along that narrow mountain road was real enough: the convoy was under attack and in trouble.
In the war theater, there is no telling how or when the enemy might mount an attack. It could be an IED or a sniper ambush. It might be planned in advance or a spur-of-the-moment assault. Either way, knowing how to react is critical to surviving.
“First and foremost, we teach our people how to stay out of harm’s way,” said Special Agent Rick M., one of the pre-deployment training program managers. “But because we are operating in a war zone, we also train for worst-case scenarios.”
The best way to stay safe is by exercising situational awareness—assessing and understanding your surroundings at all times. During the training program, instructors, some fresh from in-country deployments, offered firsthand information to students on how to avoid dangerous situations and how to react if attacked. Real-world examples from Iraq and Afghanistan—some with deadly outcomes—underscored the importance of these lessons.
“If you find yourself in danger or under attack,” Agent M. said, “the first rule is to react quickly and get out of harm’s way.”
The convoy attack and several other scenarios that were run on the next-to-last day of the pre-deployment course combined all the medical, firearms, and tactical training students had learned during the program. Now their skills were being put to the test under the most difficult of circumstances.
“If you come under attack,” Agent M. said, “you know you have to act, but you need to remember everything that you’re supposed to do. You have all your equipment that you must maintain possession of and not leave behind. You have your fellow agents in your car, some of whom may be wounded, and you have people in the woods shooting at you. It’s a difficult situation.”
After each scenario, instructors briefed students on what they did well and where there was room for improvement. In two short weeks, the class had gained an impressive set of skills—knowledge that could save their lives or help them save someone else’s life.
“The whole point of pre-deployment training,” Agent M. said, “is that when our people go into theater, they can deal with whatever situation is presented and get out as safely as possible with everybody intact. Safety is always our primary goal.”