Monday, November 5, 2007

The Hazards of Special Forces Training

Just about anywhere, commando training means a lot of hardship. For Chile's equivalent of the U.S. Navy Seals, it may be nothing short of abuse. In a published account, ex-commando Luis Cortes describes one stage of his training in which he was kidnapped by other marines and held prisoner. "You are naked, with no food, and they subject you to a series of tests to see if you are able to overcome a situation of this sort for real." That "simulation" included beatings and electric shocks, Cortes said. Of 145 trainees, 14 were still left when they were put through a survival test. That was a 50 km trek in which they had to find clothes to wear, fend on their own for food and water, and fight the elements. After the seven-month course (which took place in the early 1990s), Cortes had earned his commando beret. "When you're a commando, nobody bothers you...You gain status." After leaving the Cosacos, Cortes took a job with Blackwater, the controversial U.S. firm that hires former soldiers for armed duty in Iraq and other hot spots. Blackwater recruited hundreds of Chileans, and Cortes led a group of them in Iraq.

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