Training for Hostile Environments in a Most Supportive Environment

IWMF fellow Patricia Clarembaux tries out her moves during self-defense training.

We arrived at the training center in the mountains outside Mexico City in a couple of vans. At our first dinner, we made polite, sometimes awkward, conversation with the other journalism fellows and the IWMF staff. They were strangers, and we were tired from the journey, and — at 10,000 feet elevation — our heads were pounding from lack of oxygen.

By next morning, we were wrapping tourniquets around each others’ thighs and checking each others’ airways, as we learned the first aid casualty assessment protocol.

That afternoon, we were roaring cheers for one another, as each woman in turn practiced fighting off attackers, busting out of choke holds and kneeing our padded assailants in the groin.

It was energizing and empowering. And it was exhausting and overwhelming. We were all pushed out of our comfort zone. But in a matter of hours, were no longer strangers, we were comrades.

Over the course of the four-day Hostile Environment and First Aid Training, we learned how to dodge bullets and how to escape from handcuffs.

We learned to splint broken bones and provide cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

We learned how to carry a wounded colleague to safety.

And we learned things we hope we’ll never experience again… like how it feels to be blindfolded and handcuffed by kidnappers who put tires full of gasoline around our necks.

We got bruised, but we got stronger, more fearless, more capable. And we did it together, supporting each other all the way.

– Tyche Hendricks, 2019 U.S.-Mexico Border Fellow