One of the biggest risks posed by operating in a hostile environment is being involved in a road traffic accident (or collision/incident). The team at V-FORCE put together our Hostile Environment Vehicle Training (HEVT) course to address that problem, together with a number of other threats. This training is for individuals who operate across a wide variety of global environments, such as aid workers and journalists. It's critical that these teams can drive to a high and safe standard to avoid danger and react when a potentially life-threatening situation occurs. Our HEVT course ensures that participants can drive a range of different vehicles to a high standard, regardless of the operational challenges they might encounter.
Our course has most recently been used as part of hostile environment training for journalists who need to operate near, or inside, active war zones. The key to this training is to ensure the entire team knows how to react, and get plenty of practice of what to do, should a high-threat situation occur whilst in their vehicle.
Recently, we had a fantastic group from Sky News undergo our 5-day HEVT training programme. We had an experienced group made up of a mix of production and security teams who had already completed first aid and generic hostile environment training but wanted vehicle-specific training to complement their skill-set. Even though they normally use a local driver when working abroad, things can go wrong, and any one of the team can find themselves in the driver's seat, so being prepared is vital.
The programme started with a driving skill assessment to base-line everyone’s starting skill level. We swiftly moved onto the first element of training, vehicle inspections and preparation. When travelling into a potentially hostile environment, where the team are relying on the vehicle for survival, it's important to know how to conduct a thorough vehicle check to make sure everything works as it should. It’s also key to carry, inspect and know how to use the correct equipment to deal with breakdowns, recovery, medical emergencies and environmental survival.
The first driving the group took part in was getting behind the wheel of our front-wheel drive cars to learn about vehicle dynamics, grip-limit handling and driving with electronic assistance (ESP/ABS) off and on, to understand their functions. This phase continued over the next few days with different vehicles, ranging from rear-wheel drive BMWs, all-wheel drive Subarus and larger 4x4’s. This was to familiarise the team with the different drivetrain configurations that they might encounter and how they react when being driven at, or beyond the limit.
The second day was all about evasive driving training, which we teach in more detail in our Close Protection Driving Training (CPDT), but this one-day overview was enough to teach the core principles. The group really enjoyed practising advanced reversing drills, Y turns, J turns and handbrake turns in a range of vehicles. The Subarus seemed to be a group favourite.
The next stage of the training was all about 4x4 off-road vehicles which is where the group got to explore the diverse and technical 4000 acre Walters Arena grounds that V-FORCE calls our home. Hostile environments are not always mines, ambushes and airstrikes, it can more often be poor terrain, extreme weather and the challenges of recovering a stuck vehicle. With that in mind, the training progressed from off-road specific checks, large vehicle dynamics, basic off-roading, steep climbs and descents, to more advanced rock crawls, water hazards and vehicle rescue/recovery. This really tested the group but they did fantastically, really pulling together as a team, even with the traditional testing Welsh winter weather.
Everything came together for the fourth day, the applied phase. This had them driving in a convoy all over the Walters Arena grounds, dealing with the complications of providing first aid to a casualty in a moving, cramped vehicle, whilst having to drive challenging terrain and navigate to safety. The team then underwent a comprehensive threat mitigation phase, dealing with aggressive drivers, air strikes, minefields, and a variety of ambush situations. You can see some amazing footage from this day in our recent video:
The final exercise took place at night on the 4th day and involved the team deploying on a hasty media task in a pair of vehicles. The scenario gave scope to test the team on anything that had been taught throughout the course, without notice, whilst focussed on the standard operational pressures of a task.
In addition to the extra challenge of driving and operating by night, the exercise saw the team tackle challenging off-road obstacles, navigate tricky routes, interact with “locals”, and deal with an injured member of the team. The medical attention they needed to provide was made more complicated by them having to complete it in the back of a 4x4, in the dark while recovering back to base, remaining ever-vigilant for hostile acts.
The final day revolved around some further skills lessons, individual, and group assessment feedback and revision (including some further off-road driving). Everyone was delighted with how the training went and the skills they acquired over the course.
We want to give a huge thank you to all the V-FORCE team who came together to make the training work and also to the Sky News team who did such a great job throughout the training.
If you want to learn more about our Hostile Environment Vehicle Training, you can visit our page or contact us at Bookings@v-forcetraining.com. Thanks again to Sky and looking forward to working with them again in the future.