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Reprinted with permission.
Travelers on a mission for adventure
By MARK ALBRIGHT
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 2, 1999
Upon arrival at Tucson Airport, your instructions are to find a man in a red hat. Give him the password, and he'll hand you a copy of the Los Angeles Times. Tucked inside are instructions on how to get to the next part of your mission . . . or, rather, vacation.
Covert Ops is not your typical week at the beach. It's a weekend training getaway for James Bond wannabes marketed by a Sarasota operator of adventure tours. This version of Mission Impossible includes evasive driving instruction from a Hollywood stunt man, spy tricks from retired intelligence officers and hostage retrieval lessons that come in handy when one of your fellow travelers is taken by mock terrorists.
Sound like fun? Be prepared to fork out $2,995 for this latest twist on fantasy camps.
Incredible Adventures Inc. has been packaging hair-raising vacations for five years. It sold about 600 people an $11,000 Russian vacation package that includes lessons in flying a MiG-25 fighter jet. For $495 you can get a half-day behind the wheel of a Parts Pro racing pickup truck at Sunshine Speedway in Pinellas Park. For Covert Ops, Incredible Adventures teamed up with a Los Angeles firm that runs a corporate security, SWAT team and bodyguard school at a former CIA facility in the Arizona desert.
Safe House Inc. was willing to open up to civilians courses taught there by former Green Berets, Navy Seals and assorted mercenaries.
So far, 10 would-be Rambos signed up for the first trip April 8. More than 400 responded to ads in Men's Journal and the Wall Street Journal, but many of them were retired military and intelligence agents looking for a job.
"It's been about 95 percent male," said Jane Reiskamp, president of Incredible Adventures, who will be the first female participant. "We've gotten a lot of stockbrokers, lawyers and weekend warrior paintballers.
"It's not like boot camp," she said. "It's all in fun and designed to let you feel like you're in an action-adventure movie."
The 14-hour-a-day schedule begins with self-defense courses at 7 a.m. Next it's time for surveillance/counter-surveillance class, Booby Traps 101 and "live fire room entry practice" with paintball guns. Then comes lunch.
You can bring your own weapon for the pistol range, but they've got plenty of 9mm pistols and live ammunition to go around. Meals are cafeteria-style. The two-person rooms are a cut above the barracks. Camouflage is optional.
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