Just Call Me Jane, Jane Bond...
I've been told there are people who would kill to have my job. In the line of duty, I've flown a Russian fighter, traveled to Cape Town, raced a truck and crossed the Sahara.
If you're one of those eager to take my place, you should be warned: I now know how to escape from ambush, run you off the road, engage in close quarter battle, ram through barricades and disarm an assailant.
My latest work assignment took me to the desert of Arizona. Behind the closely guarded gates of a former military training facility, I learned more about the world of Covert Ops than I ever imagined possible.
Day one started much too early. "Patrick", a former member of the French Foreign Legion, led the group in a series of stretching exercises, followed by a lap around the athletic track. One of the biggest misconceptions people have about this program is that it's "boot camp" and you have to be a world-class athlete to participate.
After breakfast, and a group briefing, it was out to the shooting range, where I had my first encounter with a 9mm. The instructors made their way down the firing line, offering helpful suggestions. Before I knew it, I was loading and firing like a pro…or at least hitting the paper man.
Next came lunch (believe me, you'll never get hungry!), then it was off to the driving track for evasive driving. Statistics show that if you are going to be kidnapped, it will most likely happen while you are being transported by vehicle from one location to another, hence the emphasis placed on driving at Covert Ops. This class allows you to do things you've always wanted to try, but don't dare do in your BMW or Honda. (Many tires were sacrificed in the name of fun.) We learned to slalom in forward and reverse, and to perform the sudden stops, turns, bootleggers and J-hooks seen in all our favorite action movies.
Dinner was followed by time in the dojo, learning how to disarm a gun or knife-wielding assailant with my bare hands. "Action is faster than reaction at close quarters," is just one of the lessons I will carry through life. Those too adrenaline-fueled to sleep, then retired to the officer's lounge for beverages and "the stories". The instructors entertained us with tales of their real-life covert operations.
Day Two started with more physical training, breakfast, and a brief lecture on the theory of Covert Ops. Then, it was back to the shooting range to practice live fire room entries. The instructors have trained more than 130 police SWAT teams...and it shows.
Next, it was time to get behind the wheel again…this time in the hooking and ramming vehicles. These specially modified vehicles just look scary. Perhaps this class should be called "Bumper Cars for Adults". Expert driving instructors teach you how to get past a car blocking your path, how to escape if someone is trying to run you off the road, and more. Where else can you run into other cars for fun?
This was followed by more self-defense, dinner and a lecture on hostage rescue operations...or so I've been told. Somewhere around now, I was "kidnapped" by the "Environmental Nazis", a ruthless group of "terrorists" and taken to an undisclosed location, where I was forced to wait several hours while fellow agents planned my rescue.
I wish I could say my rescuers executed the perfect plan...but in Covert Operations, like in life, sometimes things don't go exactly like they should. Using the intelligence gathering techniques learned in the classroom, they uncovered where I was held, evaded sniper fire from the rooftop, entered the house with authority…and proceeded to shoot the hostage when clearing the room, leaving me bleeding green paint. Maybe my accidental assailant somehow knew I had developed what our instructors referred to as the "Stockholm Syndrome". That's when a hostage converts over to the side of the captors, ala Patty Hearst. (After all, my captors offered me beer, pretzels and a chance to relax in front of a TV for the first time all weekend.) A day that began at 7 a.m., ended near midnight.
On Sunday, we learned man-tracking skills, how to evade ambush in the Fast Attack Vehicle, surveillance techniques and more self-defense.
The shuttle ride to the airport was a noisy one, as I and my fellow agents relived aloud our favorite Covert Ops moments. Soon, we'd be back at our desks, managing real estate, handling mergers, and making sales. But, we'd never forget the one incredible weekend, we lived the life of a secret agent.
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