The American prisoners of war in Iraq are trained to survive brutal conditions with dignity.
The U.S. government has listed 13 Americans as missing in action in the war. Iraq says it holds more than 20 allied POWs and has shown nine on television, including five Americans.Among the programs aimed at toughening servicemen so they can withstand the physical pain and mental torture of prison camp is the 17-day U.S. Air Force Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base.
"We prepare Air Force air crews with the knowledge and skills necessary to survive any condition and return with honor," said Capt. Ted Hepperlen of the 3636th Combat Crew Training Wing, which runs the program in northeastern Washington state.
Neither Hepperlen nor his staff would talk Tuesday specifically about the war in the Persian Gulf, nor would they discuss survival methods in detail.
However, they said that during survival training in the Colville National Forest about 70 miles north of Spokane, soldiers cope with extreme temperatures and lack of sleep, food, water and shelter. They are also taught to give themselves first aid with crude tools and to resist enemy coercion.
"We tell our students, `You look at a grub (worm) now and say, `Ucky.' But when you were a 2-year-old you would probably pick it up and eat it.' Food aversion is something you learn. A grub is edible," Hepperlen said.
"Basically, survival is 75 percent mental and 25 percent actual application of technique," he said.
"We're the Air Force' insurance policy. We protect the Air Force's most valuable resources. That's human life," Hepperlen said. "We basically give our students the general knowledge they need to build their confidence in their ability to survive."