Best. Training. Ever.

How I survived Urban Escape and Evasion Training in Chicago

Training. Deciding on a career in IT is also making a decision to be a career student. We can’t escape it; Moore’s Law also works in the training area as well. I have been to bootcamps, online training, classroom training, seminars, private training, mentored training, apprenticeships plus I read books like crazy on IT to keep my skills sharper then a SOG knife. Heck, when I interview for a job my first and deal killer question is; "What is your policy on training?" As luck would have it, I was flying back from a storage training class and was stuck at the airport due to one of the many delays that Northwest Airlines seems to have on a daily basis. I think this one was because they couldn’t find any Windex to clean the windows in the airport bar four gates down. I just finished my book on “Building Resilient IP Networks” from Cisco Press, great book that I highly recommend. So I strolled on down to the airport bookstore looking for something to read. I came across a book titled; “Emergency” by Neil Strauss. It looked good and it was non fiction which is a requirement for me. Wholly smokes! Whatta a book!! I couldn’t put it down. Basically, it’s about a city dude that wanted to know if he had to leave the United States in an emergency how would he do it. He took all types of survival training but one of them stood out to me; "Scout Urban Escape and Evasion" from OnPoint Tactical. http://www.onpointtactical.com Now, this class had me hooked from the start. I am not a city dude, I am from a small long abandoned mining town in Tennessee (population 200) represent Iron City yo! so I am very comfortable in the woods but the big city well, that is an animal of a different sort. Thinking about the United States citizens that are kidnapped in foreign countries and the international travel I sometimes do, urban survival seemed to be a skill I needed to know. So I paid my 500 bucks and signed up. I just finished the three day class last weekend. Truthfully, I had no idea what to expect. I thought I would be in a class with a bunch of paramilitary, anti-government and conspiracy theory folks screaming about Building Seven, Ruby Ridge, 2012 and Obama is the prophesied AntiChrist. I was mega wrong. More then half the class read the same book I did and came to the same conclusions, others where international travelers that were recommended to the class. The instructors were very professional and focused on one thing; “You are trying to survive in hostile territory” In two days I learned the following: - How to pick all types of locks (I will never look at a Master Lock the same way again) - How to pick and escape from single/double locked handcuffs of multiple brands - How to pick and escape from leg shackles - How to escape to from zip tie cuffs - How to escape from being tied up with phone cord (the number one restraint in the world) - How to steal a car - How to drive evasively and detect if your are being followed - Make a disguise and use it! - Scaling fences/barriers with and without restraints. The original Parkour! - Read people and the flow of the area - How to find, use and hide your own caches in a urban area - Read the terrain and how to take advantage of it - Make tools and weapons from the stuff you find on the street - Escaping from Dogs. I had my fingers crossed that I would be escaping from a Shi-Tzu... And a bunch more stuff. But like any good training, beating us up with Power Point is never going to teach us anything. We need console time to make sure we know it. This class is designed in that same format. It was VERY hands on in every section except stealing a car and escaping from dogs (...whew!!!...) We practiced all of these skills over and over. Lights on/off, right hand/left hand, homemade tools and professional ones, etc the On Point team made sure we knew this stuff backwards and forwards. Like any valuable skill knowing it under pressure is the key. What makes the CCIE more valuable then a CCNP? It’s the lab element. As the On Point team says, "Under pressure you do not raise to the occasion, you default to your training." Day Three: Field work This is where the rubber hits the road, for this is the day we are kidnapped, chained, shackled and must escape/evade in downtown Chicago all day long while doing various tasks. The objective is simple; escape and evade all day long and make it to the green zone for extraction without being recaptured. Recapturing meant you had to start over minus something…like your shoes or you swap your clothes for some 70’s area disco clothes. Oh yeah, you did NOT want to be recaptured. Nothing could prepare me from the massive adrenalin rush of someone throwing a hood over my head, yelling at me, searching me, pushing and shoving me and chaining me to four other dudes in a dark warehouse with water dripping. My breathing went shallow, my eyes narrowed as I felt the warm wave of adrenalin wash over me from head to toe, my mind shifted into survival mode and this was no longer a class. I was getting out of here period. Once they leave the room for only a few minutes to make a call, we had to act fast to escape. I had hidden a bobby pin in my cheek so I spit that out and went to work on the cuffs. In seconds the Smith & Wesson cuffs popped open and hit the floor. As a hidden bonus they zip tied my feet which I did not practice, but I used the same technique I learned for my hands and POP!! I was free and scaling a fence to get the crap out of there with the feet of Usain Bolt. First thing I had to do was change my appearance. With only ten bucks in my pocket, I zipped into Walgreen’s and picked up four razors and shaved my goatee off to make a biker/pipes mustache. I stayed off the main drag (Milwaukee Ave) and stuck to back alleys, side streets and hopped from store to store for cover to reach my objectives. I went into a flea market and picked up a black used "Live to Ride" tshirt and used black bandanna that I tied into a dew rag for three bucks. Although on a 90+ degree day, black wasn’t the best color choice, I adjusted my gate a bit and became a biker dude that was ignored by nearly everyone walking around Chicago. I was part of society but the part that folks never acknowledge seeing, perfect! I stayed that way all day. I saw quite a few trackers but they never gave me a second look. I keep my distance also but as a biker I could not like I was. I was all over that area on foot all day long. I got weird looks as I went into wig stores, Asian nail salons, occult bookstores and hip hop used record stores trying to blend in with society… You know because many bikers listen to Sun Ra while cruising down Lakeshore Drive. One of my task was that I had to panhandle for money. I had to get two dollars from someone to successfully complete my task so I came up with a story about losing my billfold out partying and sure enough it was my "fellow" bikers that I ran into around Lucas Square that gave me five bucks and brought me a chicken sandwich before I had to get back to my "Ole Lady" (oh man I hope my wife doesn’t read this or I will be practicing household escape and evasion...) Back on my route again, I made my way thru various tasks to obtain more clues on how to egress to my final extraction point. Something started to happen to me as a progressed. I started feeling the heartbeat of the city and the movement of folks downtown. I have lived in Wisconsin for 16 years now and I go to Chicago all the time. I just realized that I have not been to Chicago as much as I have been to various buildings in Chicago and bypassed the town in 30MPH clips. Saturday, I was in Chicago and it was amazing. I felt like I was part of the city and my confidence grew. I made it all day without being recaptured. There were a few very nervous points for me like crossing bridges because I was out in the open so much I just knew I would be picked off, but I used cover and moved only when the people did to blend in. At the extraction point, I looked at my pedometer for the first time; 18.7 miles in eight hours! Wholly smokes! I didn’t really feel like I went that far!! As I started winding down, my mind and feet sure did. On the two hour drive home, I did not turn the radio on, I just rode with the windows down mentally winding down and decompressing. Stepping out of the truck my feet hurt, legs ached and I was still in disguise. My wife did a double take for sure and the neighbors looked at me like I was a stranger that must have just jacked Jimmy Ray’s truck. A first look at my feet revealed some purdy darn big blisters, but certainly not a big as the amazing sense of accomplishment I felt. Whatta great class!! Above and beyond my expectations. Chances are you are going to be a training junky like me as well. After awhile, CLI commands tend to run together and it’s fun to be challenged in other ways. Long after I forget config’ing confederation in BGP, I will never forget these skills I learned over three days. I would highly recommend this class to anyone. It is stressful, demanding and will change how you look at your world for sure. As for me, I kinda liked my biker look and maybe I going out Harley shopping as soon as On Point has a training class on escaping and a evading a mad wife…. Jimmy Ray Purser Trivia File Transfer Protocol The 007 theme by Monty Norman was originally wrote as a sitar instrumental titled; "Bad Sign, Good Sign" for the play; "A House For Mr. Biswas"

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