In the summer of 1987, I reported back to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where I'd spent a semester on exchange from West Point the previous year. This time, it was for a three week training programme in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape - a course designed for current and future pilots, in case they get shot down behind enemy lines.
If I remember correctly, the first couple of weeks were very soft, unlike Army courses, where there tended to be hazing for hazing's sake, this one was very civilised until the time came to impose a hostile scenario to consolidate the learning. The survival phase was mainly classroom work, other than a 'survival meal' in which we (in small groups) had to kill and eat a rabbit and a chicken. I'd had to do that in previous courses I'd done anyway. Things got interesting when we launched into the evasion phase. Three man teams were designated to navigate from a place where they were notionally shot down, via partisan camps and avoiding enemy patrols, to a point of safe passage to friendly territory.
Another Army guy was in my small team. Our Air Force counterpart badly sprained his ankle relatively early on the first day, when we had three days walking and many wooded miles to cover. I have to say, he was incredibly stoic and brave, but still he had to lean on one or both of us. Of course, we had only minimal equipment and next to no food. We purified water from mountain streams or lakes with iodine tablets so as not to fall prey to dehydration.
We managed to avoid the enemy patrols, who concentrated disproportionately on obvious points like open space and road crossings, where lazy teams would wander to minimise the distance they had to travel. The smart money was on putting in the extra distance in order to avoid those traps, but that meant that the pressure was always on to ensure we didn't miss the time windows for presenting ourselves at the partisan camps, where we could get stew or other sustenance.
The resistance phase was 24 hours in a simulated POW camp. We were blindfolded and placed in solitary confinement - including little cramped boxes one could barely fit into by sitting and hunching over in a ball. This didn't bother me particularly, as I quite like spending time on my own and don't mind close spaces. I do remember, though, as I do from most of my military training courses, just being terribly impatient with the fact that my freedom was so restricted.
I was a bad student in that I never immersed myself in the scenario to get the most from it. I always satisficed AS A STUDENT rather than stepping fully into the role AS A PRISONER or whatever other role I was cast in. This is not to say that I never played the game. During interrogation, I gave no useful information and even managed to stick to a consistent story of misinformation. But how hard was that? They couldn't exactly chop my fingers off, kick me in the nuts or threaten to kill my family. They could only put me into some temporarily uncomfortable 'stress' positions that I knew caused no lasting damage.
As with most of my military training, I learned at least as much about myself as I did about the specific content of the course.