Part three of a six part series.
Howard made a sidestep into the SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) Course, “Arguably the most professional military course I have ever attended. When I went through Q-Course, it (SERE School, JL) was not required for soldiers, officers had to attend it. Normally when you showed up for the Q-Course that was one of the first things you attended, SERE. We attended what was called level C, or high risk of a soldier becoming trapped behind enemy lines. They had level A, which nowadays every soldier goes through level A, it’s an online course. Level B is for people who need to understand a little bit more.”
“Level C is for we need to really prepare these folk.” He continued. “When you show up for SERE School it’s a gentlemen’s course, everyone is in the classroom to eventually you get to the point where you’re in the prison camp. It’s one of the few Army schools where you sign a form saying that they are going to hit you. You are going to be struck, you are going to be injured, and you sign a form saying that you understand that.”
“You go through interrogations. Without going to in-depth about it, let me say that they were professional and they explained everything that they did- to include that at the end you sat down for at least an hour with one of your interrogators. He would walk you through your interrogation, what you were thinking…how you reacted, where you started going wrong.”
Howard thought he went wrong when the “hitter” came in. The interrogator disabused him of that notion. “No, no, you went wrong before we called in the hitter…”
As an aside, the Army has people who are specially qualified and trained to beat people in these schools without causing permanent damage. Still, the experience is unpleasant at best.
“You talked about what were your thoughts, what you screwed up and screwed up badly, what did you do well, and what could you build on… In many ways I felt at the end that I was more torn down than in other parts of the course. You needed to have that (the debrief, JL) in order to put you back together. You went through something that was intense, and made you question yourself sometimes.”
“And that final thing, if they would have just said, “you made it, you passed SERE,” I dunno, it would have been difficult to put it into perspective, whereas having that opportunity for someone to give you first-hand feedback…”
Howard found the feedback invaluable, and he actually managed to trick his interrogators by feigning exhaustion in one session- a clever ploy. His interrogators said that he “deserved an Oscar.”
Howard passed one of the Army’s most brutal training courses on the strength of his wits.