U.S. will train troops to avoid capture in Iraq

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The U.S. military in Iraq will train its forces to evade capture by Islamic insurgents.

U.S. officials said a "core captivity curriculum," would be completed by September, followed by updated training to service members whose jobs put them at the highest risk of being captured.

Air Force Col. Mark Bracich, director of policy, doctrine and training for the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va., said the curriculum developed jointly by the services would be introduced into training for all soldiers starting with basic training. The training has been offered at the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape schools.

The Defense Department has been reviewing its training procedures, Middle East Newsline reported.

The new curriculum has been designed to address what Bracich termed the "asymmetric" modern-day battlefield -- one without clear-cut front lines or clear distinctions between friend and foe. The colonel said training would be designed for such missions as peacekeeping, humanitarian and other noncombat duties. He said that under such circumstances soldiers could be taken hostage by a splinter insurgency group.

"More people are being put into more levels of risk in more environments," Bracich told the American Forces Press Service. "It raises the question: are we doing the right thing for the right people at the right time? This is something we're working with the services to figure out."

Officials said the changing battlefield has also revised assessments of which soldiers were susceptible to capture. In the 2003 war in Iraq, combat-support soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve's 507th Maintenance Company -- rather than soldiers fighting in battle -- were captured.

Currently, soldiers considered at moderate risk of capture receive about 10 hours of survival training, officials said. Most of the training has been comprised of watching videos about survival, evasion, resistance and escape techniques. They said that sometimes the instruction involves field training.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dave Williams was held 21 days in captivity after his AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter was shot down over Iraq in March 2003. Williams, who underwent the army's survival school, said his captivity reinforced the need for additional training for all service members, regardless of their job specialty.

"When you go into a situation like Iraq, there are no friendly lines," Williams said. "Everybody is at high risk of capture, regardless of your [military occupational specialty]."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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