HEFAT Lviv, 05 2022.
‘Ok, let’s stop laughing and get it out of your systems now.’ That’s my opening line when I introduce myself to my new course of 18 students on The Frontline Club hostile environment course. I discreetly eye their phones and see pictures of Marie and me, or more often not, pictures of Jamie `Dornan and Rosamunde Pike in the movie, A Private War.
Were further relaxed on the first day when a young student put up her hand and said, ‘I am pleased we have such a dangerous teacher.
Bizarre and, frankly, unlikely scenarios on a whiteboard often puts me to sleep, and the most dangerous situation in a classroom is the whiteboard collapsing on someone’s head.
Here, I have one day to drive through a mass of information that can and will save lives. Getting that information logged deep into people’s memories and ready to be drawn on at any moment is a challenge.
Shock and awe. Ok, the shock and awe angle is my most potent tool. I have 25 years of experience in war. If I can grab their attention with a story from the field and then work the safety principles into the exercise and analyse how we could have mitigated the danger, I’ve done something worthwhile.
The hybrid lessons of real-life scenarios, and the data written in black and white before them, are no longer separate alien beings. My description of fitting a tourniquet to my own leg in Syria in 2012 is no longer a series of unconnected words. It’s now a graphic life or death scenario imprinted on the minds of the course attendees.
The second most important piece of advice I have for the group is fear. When the attack comes, all well-laid plans go out of the window. Chemically, your body goes into overdrive, flooding your brain with Corsodyl and adrenaline, which is great to a point, but Corsodyl and adrenaline do not make you smarter. In most situations, the very first minute will save your or other lives. You need to achieve a balanced mental state. You will not remove the fear, period. You can, however, manage the panic and, if done successfully, end up with a positive outcome.
By the end of their assignments, most people will have never opened their IFAKs. Some will have treated minor wounds or infections. But at the end of the conflict, if one life has been saved using the techniques learnt here. Then nothing has been in vain.