Recently I was one of a group of journalists who attended a four-day hostile environment training course in Bangkok. I was unsure just what to expect as I’d been told all sorts of tales – mostly scary – about what sort of things would happen to us.
The group numbered 14; all of us Reuters journalists, including text correspondents, video producers and photographers. There were five of us from Pictures - Seoul staffer Jo Yong-Hak, Chief Photographer Japan Mike Caronna, Amit Guptafrom Jammu in Indian-administered Kashmir, Pichi Chuang from Taipei and Victor Frailefrom Hong Kong. The level of experience in the group varied wildly, from highly experienced correspondents, producers and photographers, to neophytes like me.
On the first day of the course, our instructors introduced themselves – they were both ex-Australian SAS personnel, with a wealth of experience of operating in dangerous places including East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of the most valuable things I took away with me was the First aid. They promised us at the beginning that by the end we would remember every step. I’d learned first aid at school but had forgotten almost everything about it and never had reason to practice it. Before first aid instruction began, we were asked a blunt question, ”I can do something to save each of you, but what can you do to help me?” It made me feel irresponsible forgetting how to provide help in a medical emergency. This was valuable stuff which everyone needs not just in the field but domestically with colleagues, friends and family.
Over the next few days it was information we would have to apply again and again as we tackled the many scenarios and sure enough, by the end, we were able to remember every step of the process irrespective of how complicated it had seemed on the first day. Practical training began with a demonstration on a dummy and over the next couple of days we practiced CPR techniques on each other.