One of the most eagerly anticipated stages of FSO training is a week-long course that is affectionately known as “Crash Bang.” It’s a course that was originally designed for personnel who are being deployed to high-threat areas like Iraq or Afghanistan, but in recent years they have started giving it to a lot more of us. The course teaches some of the skills that one may need in order to stay safe abroad (or domestically, I suppose). Most of the instructors are former military who have used this stuff in the field, so they had lots of stories. We took the course last week. Highlights included:
- Getting a full day of driving instruction from former race car drivers, and getting to drive really fast around a cool network of tracks
- Being taught how to ram a barricade…and getting to practice
- Learning emergency trauma first-aid from combat medics (tourniquet application, sealing chest wounds, inserting nose tubes, etc.) and then getting to practice on dummies that actually spurt blood and scream at you
- Practicing escaping from a burning building
- Learning how to detect and evade surveillance
- Watch an explosives demonstration. Enough said
I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have a lot of fun this week. We feel a bit like this guy:
But it’s obviously not all about fun and games. There’s a reason we’re being given this training. We all know about Islamabad, Tehran, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Benghazi, and other attacks on our colleagues abroad. Many of us have not made it home at the end of our tours. Even if we’re not being targeted, we know that terrible things can happen anywhere. Charleston is just one example. And while we were in this training there were attacks on worshipers, vacationers, and regular people in France, Tunisia, and Kuwait. The world is as dangerous a place as it’s ever been.
I really hope that neither K nor I will ever have to use any of this training. I hope that none of my colleagues or their family members will have to. But should something bad happen, I’m very thankful that the Department has seen fit to give us some tools to stay safe and avoid letting things go from bad to worse.
I’ve also found myself reflecting a little bit on why I’m getting into this career in the first place. Why would I want to go places where I may have to face danger? It’s a question that kept kicking around my head all week. There aren’t any car bombs or drug cartels back in Rhinelander, after all.
As I thought about it more and more I kept circling back to this: I want my kids and grand kids to live in a world where no one has to worry about guns or bombs, and I’m willing to take some risk to help bring that world about. Should some descendant of mine ever choose to enter the Foreign Service I would love for them to NOT have to take this training. There are a lot of people in the world who don’t understand the U.S., or who (often accurately) feel that the U.S. does not understand them. I am becoming a diplomat because (as cheesy and hopelessly idealistic as it sounds) I believe that person to person interaction and relationship can lead to understanding that makes the world safer. That’s the kind of work that I want to do.