Sunday, April 09, 2006

SEREious Shit

April 9th will be an anniversary my community isn't likely to forget any time soon. It's the day Matt Maupin disappeared in Iraq.

Our trees and lamp posts are adorned with yellow ribbons. The fence around the school district's bus yard (where Mrs. Maupin works) is decorated with tributes to Matt. Electric candles stay turned on year-round here, instead of just at Christmas, to help "light the way home" for Matt. Clermont Yellow Ribbon, lead by Matt's parents, send care packages to deployed soldiers along with a picture of Matt and a note to "please find our son". Everywhere I go, I'm reminded of Matt. Clermont Yellow Ribbon has a few video productions linked, but this one gets me every time.

Thing is, that's not the case for the rest of the country. Chances are most of them have forgotten about our missing Soldier. But you know what? I never will. And they wouldn't either if Matt was from their hometown. I often wonder how his parents are getting through it. I wonder if they think about Matt being taken, interrogated, possibly abused and killed. I know they do, I just don't know *what* they are thinking.

I take some comfort knowing that Matt must have gone through survival training through the Army before deployment. I know the Army wanted to give him every opportunity to survive being taken hostage. I was looking into the training the Army does for interrogation and survival when writing this post, and came across the SERE site. SERE stands for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. It was developed at the end of the Korean War to provide our military with as many tools as possible to survive being taken as a POW.

I hope Matt went. But I'm also glad he's not a woman going through that program. If you scroll down on the SERE link above (it takes you to Wikipedia), you'll get to a section entitled "Techniques". It lists the skills taught during the training, including "sexual embarrassment/humiliation/rape." WTF????? Sexual embarrassment,humiliation, and rape are taught? Huh. Wonder how they do that.
Scroll down a little bit further, to "SERE at the US Air Force Academy and the 1995 scandal". Oh great. Sounds like the Zoomie version of Tailhook, right? Of course I had to look into this further.

It sickens me to think that our enlisted personnel would be subjected to sexual humiliation in the name of training. According to AR350-30, "during training, capturing forces or units will treat simulated prisoners EXACTLY according to the Geneva Convention". EXACTLY. So why is it that we prosecute, and convict guards over sexually humiliating and abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, yet it's OK to do it to our own enlisted men and women? We're better than this, people.

John Donovan recently provided a link to the SERE Code of Conduct, AR350-30, which includes a couple of sections on training. It basically states that during training, simulated POW's shall be treated according to the Geneva Convention. How in the HELL did we get from "Geneva Convention" to simulated rape of our men and women?

I have a HUGE problem with this. OK. "problem" is too kind. I'm PISSED. I'm really, really PISSED. Teaching our folks to survive, evade, resist and escape can be done WITHOUT SEXUAL HUMILIATION. It can be simulated WITHOUT really doing it, folks. Trust me. The mental affects of sexual abuse lasts WAY longer than the physical affects. It sickens me (I'm serious- I got sick to my stomach doing the research for this post) to think that our military deemed this treatment "necessary" for proper resistance training.


I'm wondering what the gender split on this post will be. But I'm guessing that the guys will have no problem with the training, other than a simple "it's ugly, but necessary" attitude about it, whereas I think the women will be more outraged. Perhaps it's because we ARE women, and many know what it's like to have your body used, and what it's like to be sexually intimidated by a man.

As I find more articles (or am directed to other articles), I'll post links and thoughts here. I'm trying not to feed the trolls, but, well... I think this post will probably bring them out.
1. NYT article published Nov. 2005, appropriately entitled "Doing Unto Others as They Did Unto Us" reaffirms my believe that our soldiers are using SERE techniques on Iraqi detainees. The article focuses more on Gitmo, which I am NOT getting into, and why I hestitate in posting it, but it raises some very valid points about our interrogation techniques and how we are regressing to Communist interrogator tactics.

2. Lex posted about it in August, 2005. The link he provided is no longer available. Consensus is that SERE sucks, but it worked. However, none of the comments mention any sexual harassment/intimidation techniques- they all focus on other types of physical abuse. (which I have no problem with, by the way- it's the sexual stuff that needs to be left out of this training)

I am obviously in the minority here, but that does not lessen my horror over this so-called "training" tactic, and I'll be honest, I'm really disappointed in a lot of you for not being more upset that we're doing this sort of thing to our own soldiers. I expected more of a gender divide, but there wasn't one. It's more of a "Sis against the world" divide. So be it.

I do not see the value of adding sexual content to SERE training. I *DO* see the value of SERE- just not the sexual content. No amount of training could possibly prepare you, or your fellow soldiers, for that scenario. I was talking to Sean (Doc in the Box) a bit about it, and he said that you can't train for the kind of terror the POW's are subjected to over there- what could prepare you for having your head sawed off by a rusty knife?
That's part of my problem with it. No amount of training will prepare you for something that will most likely never occur anyway- so why do it?

There has been a lot of discussion over SERE vs. Abu Ghraib vs. Gitmo as well. The three are connected, because many of the SERE techniques have been utilized on detainees by our soldiers. If you look at the specific treatment of the Abu Ghraib prisoners, you will see alarming similarities. Gitmo officials have made use of SERE training techniques to interrogate Gitmo detainees.

It's a slippery slope, and I know that stopping the abuse on our end does not mean it will stop on their end, but I know Americans are better than that, and we don't have to sink to their level.


  • I am a woman and if sexual abuse training is felt to be neccessary then I'm sure it is. If a woman is captured you sure as shit better believe that your chances of getting raped are pretty high, so knowing how to deal with this can be very useful. Plus, only those people who are strong of mind should be doing this training anyhow.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:34 PM  

  • I appreciate the time and effort you put into this. However I disagree. I am a cadet at USAFA and this training is absolutely necessary for us. 1/2 of us go on to fly planes. Odds are at least one of us will be captured by the enemy. The enemy will use any method available to get information from us since we are high value targets. The taliban do not respect the Geneva convention, and rape, beheadings, and torture are common for prisoners. Rape is especially common for women who are captured by insurgent forces. It is important that we know how to deal with torture so that we do not leak important information that will get another one of us killed. It may be illegal, it may not, I am no lawyer but I believe that it is necessary.

    By Blogger openyoureyes, at 12:56 AM  

  • To simulate realistic scenarios- are those threatened with rape allowed to fire live rounds or thrust a bayonet at their captors during training?

    By Anonymous Alex, at 2:23 PM  

  • LOL, I'm a female trainee in a paramilitary organization that focuses a lot on SERE. I googled to see how Americans do their simulations...after all they came up with the acronym. Not so different from ours, although I think the US military has toned it down since some controversies. We're lucky because we are private and have none of those constraints to operate within, which means our people can be even better trained than some of the "best" militaries in the world.

    The thing is, I'm a masochist and I think the simulations are fucking fun, no matter how painful. Nobody knows I'm a masochist and they just think I'm excellent at resisting. I kind of have a huge unfair advantage, but it's not my fault. Nobody realizes how ecstatic I am before every simulation and how it kills me to have to wait for the next one. It's hilarious. Our SERE program doesn't actually rape, just does threats, sexual humiliation, getting close, ect, because we don't want little simulation babies. LOL. Then it would be very hard to explain when they grow up and ask "Mommy, was I an accident?"

    I don't know what I'll do when I finish training. No more fun for me unless I get captured. :((( Then the enemy will be like WTF because I wouldn't be responsive to anything they do and would have a "go ahead, rape me," attitude. The one thing I can't deal with very well is long term isolation, but I still deal with it better than others do, because my psyche is always like "whatever, don't care what happens to me," and I have way to much pride to give up any intel, even in a simulation.

    You said "I hope Matt went, but I'm also glad he's not a woman going through the program." I know you're a woman, but that's kind of a sexist comment...because why is sexual assault worse for women than for men? To be honest, it seems like it would humiliate a man more because they're all like "I'm a big strong man, this can't happen!" I think sexist comments are almost more insulting when they are well-intentioned, such as those referring to how women are vulnerable to rape.

    I understand that rape is bad and should always be prosecuted unless consensual, but I don't understand why it's such a HUGE detail to those who get raped. I've never been afraid of it. People are like "Don't go to that part of town at night, you'll get raped," and all I think is "Uh oh, if I get raped, I might not get to my destination on time, but I'll probably get there faster than if I take the other route, as long as it's not bloody enough that I have to go to the hospital." I kind of think I will get raped sometime, because the statistic is 1 in 4 women before college in Western countries, and I don't hang out in Western countries..."third world" and Eastern countries have even higher rates, and I refuse to practice "rape avoidance" techniques or let fear of rape regulate my decisions, because what other people do to me is not my fault or my concern. I can't imagine being traumatized by it. I am trained deal with immense pain, and the psychological aspects don't bother me at all, in fact I find them compelling. Even though I believe women can be just as strong as men, I think a lot of women make big deals over nothing. A lot, not all, and not me. I, on the other hand, laugh at people's sexist rape jokes and then catch myself acting like a dick. I just hope that when I get raped, I don't get a disease. If the rapist gives me syphilis or something, I will track him down and exterminate him. Otherwise, I will kill him if I get the chance but won't dwell on it after the fact.

    Why is it okay to prosecute and convict guards over sexually humiliating prisoners at Abu Ghraib, yet it's OK to do it to our own enlisted men and women? Because they consent for the purpose of training. Duh.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:03 PM  

  • Oh shut the fuck up. You don't even know what the course actually consists of - you're going off of a vague Wikipedia article, and you're all worked up. And Matt probably was not SERE trained - that's an elite training school and not something the common soldier has.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:18 AM  

  • and to the poser above claiming to be a masochist and loving SERE training - yeah fucking right. Go back to your fanfic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:21 AM  

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