Media: Is that a camera or an anti-tank weapon?

If you're going to cover a war you need survival training, not journalism school. To that end, Tristana Moore learns what to do when kidnapped, and how to save lives with a Tampax

They say that since Bosnia, journalists have been seen as legitimate targets on the battlefield. Some soldiers even regard it as sport to shoot at them. Thankfully, news organisations like ITN do not send out their producers or reporters to a war-zone untrained. They make use of courses, such as the ones that are run by Centurion Risk Assessment Services, where the instructors are all ex-Royal Marines. A look at their CVs shows that they've been to some of the most dangerous countries in the world, including Cambodia and Algeria.

The aim of the course is to teach journalists about the risks they face during assignments. I was sent to Hampshire by ITN, for a one-week "Hostile Environment Course". The training centre was a stately home called Heckfield Place, near the village of Hartley Wintney. Arriving at the local train station, I was picked up by a Centurion representative and taken to the manor house. Driving through the imposing gates, and along the winding path, "Muzza" filled me in on a few details. I was one of 15 journalists attending the course, and the only woman.

The week was to focus on first aid, weapons training and mine-spotting. It all seemed as straightforward as an IT course. Until one morning, we were driving along in a jeep and the play-acting suddenly ended.

"All of you out, now!"

We were physically thrown out of the vehicle and on to the ground. We'd been ambushed. I heard gunfire and panicked. Our attackers were armed with assault rifles. Someone put a hood over my head and we were told to march in a line. We were then hurled on to the muddy grass.

The instructors analysed our response. I had tried to take off my hood to escape and was promptly shot dead. This is not an assignment for wimps. Whether you're a woman or a man, you'll be treated just the same by your assailants. During captivity, the key strategy is to control the initial shock.

We were set some challenging tasks. We had to look out for land mines, trip wires, booby traps and any other "hostile" objects.

"The aim is to see things before you get blown up," says Steve, a former Marine. We were shown a video, including clips from various wars around the world - body parts strewn across roads and blood everywhere. The song, "Another One Bites The Dust", ran in the background. Weapons and mines kill. It is a stark, albeit obvious message. War is not something that is to be treated lightly.

The next day, it's wet again. Hostile weather is entirely appropriate to the course. On the agenda today: how to run for cover when you're being shot at. And did you know that a sniper can kill you at a range of three kilometres? There's also a chance to handle an AK-47 and an SA-80 rifle, the latter used by the British forces.

"Now, this is nice," says our instructor as he picks up a rocket launcher. "If you're filming a guy firing one of these and you're standing behind him, you're dead meat." I tried to lift it, but it was too heavy.

More warnings, then a few lessons in first aid. How to treat someone with a leg injury. Don't be put off by the "red stuff", just find the pressure-point, press down on it and wrap a bandage around the wound. And if you need to make an improvised stretcher, here's how to do it. You can either team up with someone else and hold your arms together to make a seat for the casualty, or wrap a big blanket over two sticks.

Advice followed on hot and cold weather injuries, how to navigate, and what to pack in your emergency kit. We were also told that if you carry a couple of Tampax, you could save someone's life, as they can be used to treat an open wound. As for body armour, wear your bullet-proof vest even if it weighs a ton. One more comforting thought: don't forget that your cameraman could be mistaken for a soldier, as the camera looks like an anti-tank weapon at a distance.

During your time off, three-course meals are laid on, and there is a bar, where the instructors take it in turns to tell stories of when they were in the Falklands or the swampy jungles of Borneo. We talk about the "crack and thump", and how to guess the distance of a person who is firing a weapon at you. Anyone who didn't have the energy to chat, could choose from a selection of action films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted. In the comfort of my en-suite room, I felt miles away from any war-zone, but I had vivid dreams of mines exploding, amputated limbs and gun-fire ricocheting outside.

Five days later, it's time for the final assessment. We're divided into two teams and driven out to the nearby woods. This time there is no ambush, but a series of scenarios designed to test our initiative. We fail dismally on the first one.

We come across two casualties in a minefield under attack by hostile forces. We decide to treat the victims on site, rather than evacuate them. "A complete balls-up," we are told later, as the casualties would have died by now. We return to base, feeling slightly downbeat. We receive a certificate, and the instructors wish us good luck. The next intake of journalists has already arrived.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits