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Urban-SERE Phoenix

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This Blog is regularly updated and posted to Tumblr and linked back here. There is a link in the footer you can follow to link directly to tumblr where you can like and subscribe via tumblr.Conrad Allen

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Winter is Fast Approaching

Tuesday November 2018

As the cold weather approaches and the cold fronts begin bringing snow I am reminded of February 2018 when I was lucky to be skiing in British Colombia for the whole month.

That was us out in Fernie.  However, you don’t need to be going to anywhere that dramatic to still take note of the winter.  Begin with preparing your car and making sure you have  blanket, shovel and emergency food in case you get stuck out and about.


If you are heading further afield then make sure you are suitably equipped with ice axe and crampons if the terrain is likely to get steep or icy.  Lastly. make sure you know how to navigate and carry a map and compass NOT just a GPS. The cold will kill batteries fast so carry spares.

We really must have more respect of mother nature during the forthcoming winter and make sure we stick the odds in our favour by properly preparing properly equipping and lastly looking after one another.

Go check on your elderly neighbours and make sure those in vulnerable situations are assisted where necessary.

Business is Booming

Tuesday April 2018

Personal security while abroad or at home has never been so in demand.  Almost daily we hear about terror attacks, vehicle attacks driving into crowds and even good old fashioned staging/shootings.  

Improved situation awareness can help in all these situations by highlighting the threat and mitigating the risk.  Its time we all admitted we are at risk and we need training to broaden our awareness of such attacks and how we can lessen the chances of them happening to us.  The ostrich approach will only get you so far and of course luck… But HOPE, Hope is not  course of action.

Tuesday January 2018

Las Vegas - Corporate Travel Risk Conference Dec 2017


Having been invited to attend and take part in the conference, regarding corporate risk and travel security, it was interesting to hear much of the discussion focussed on getting a good insurance policy.  However, this does not prevent anything happening and nor does it demonstrate that corporations have met their duty of care in preparing personnel to meet with danger.

We at Urban-SERE submit that the only way any corporation can demonstrate that it has fully discharged its duty of care is through training.  Training the staff about the risks they are being subjected to; the risks that they subject themselves to through poor security awareness and training of the company staff - to ensure correct procedures and protocols are arranged and honoured.

This level of security and safety awareness is nothing that cannot be undertaken and at a low cost, certainly a lower cost than any subsequent law suit or prosecution for failures to adhere to basic Health & Safety and Welfare legislation. For those who wish to look it up its covered neatly in the Health and Safety at Work Act ‘74 Sections, 2 & 7.  Those two sections place clear duties upon the employer and also on the employee.

Get informed, educated, trained and smart.  Stay safe and keep your staff safe. This is a good starting place https://www.urban-sere.com/store/store.php?product/page/3/Travellers%27+Security+and+Safety+Awareness+Handbook

Also feel free to contact us and we will give you some free time to outline your needs, wants and obligations.

Urban-SERE Team OMM

Saturday November 2017

The toughest adventure race in the UK celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year in Langdale the Lake District.  It began in 1968 as the Karrimor, later becoming the KIMM (Karrimor International Mountain Marathon) before morphing once more into its current OMM(Original Mountain Marathon) and still with an international field.

There are basically two type of route: Linear which is a straight line distance according ot the class you’re in and you just have to hit every checkpoint.  OR the score routes where you have a selection of checkpoints to get points and a time limit to achieve the highest score - However, you are heavily penalised for every minute over time.

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Introduction

It was back in May when i suggested we take part , especially as its the 50th Anniversary year.  Before long we were booked on and all set for the short score course.  I knew Donna wouldn’t be fast and that our strength would be in successful navigation.  We had some training runs and a little navigation practice in the Peak District and then awaited the event at the end of October.

We arrived at Langdale early and set up your camp and then read with horror the expected weather of 45-60 mph winds rain and hill fog…  No doubt about it, it would be testing conditions and we’d earn all the points we hoped to get.  To be honest, just finishing and preferably with a positive score was our aim.

Main Body

As we set off on day one we had some ascent to contend with but since we were starting in the valley floor any route had us climbing 700m which ever way one travelled.  We set off and I soon had to start reassessing our pace and the selected course as it became apparent that we wouldn’t be making the kind of pace I’d hoped for.  Donna gave it her all but we just weren’t fast enough for the route Id initially thought out.  As we changed our route and shortened it we were making good time and collecting points.  We’d seen a few teams looking for checkpoint (AO)  and although we did find it several near us walked past it and missed it.  As we neared the finish we were over time and we both knew we were losing score every minute.  We finished 9:30 mins late and lost 20 points.  Thats a sever penalty and something we resolved not to repeat the second day.   

After  sleep in a wet field and a good breakfast of porridge, we headed to the start of day 2 at our allotted time of 0815.  We were given the days map with fresh checkpoints marked i pink and a reduced four hour time limit  We decided to take the shortest route home via a good scoring checkpoint.  We headed out and collected a 50 pointer but they made us work hard for it.  Step ascent and boggy conditions were the order of the day.  We came in 15 mins early and were pleased with our efforts.  

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Donna on day two ‘dibbing’ the Checkpoint for 50 points after a hard climb up the boggy hill side.



The route below is our route taken on day two, we came in 15 mins early but couldn’t realistically have got to any other checkpoints in time so would have injured more time penalties had we done so.

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We were placed 92nd out of 138 finishing teams with 28 failing to finish and in the Mixed Vets category of the Short Score we were 12th out of 24 finishers with another 6 teams retiring.  Well done indeed.

The Film

The following film is our experiences o this OMM event and its 8 mins long but gives a good overview of what to expect on a short score course.

SERE Training (Common Misunderstandings)

Tuesday October 2017

We were recently involved with an event (our involvement non SERE related)   and happened to overhear a group talking about SERE Training and it was clear that they had a very slewed understanding of what it all meant.  So without naming and shaming lets try education and begin by looking back at where SERE came from and where this confusion may have begun…

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Combat Survival 

In decades gone by there was a recognition, certainly with the UK, that military survival was generally based on the prospect of having to stay alive after being separated from a larger formation or unit in conflict and would involve movement through occupied terrain and evasion from capture.  Generally the terms Combat Survival were used but also E&E became commonly understood to mean similar movement in contested battle space.  E&E (Escape and Evasion) certainly conjures up a precise act of escaping and remaining at large.  However, the escape in this term was not escape from captivity but escape from an environment/country.  As such it was wrongly understood serviceman were taught to ‘escape’; that it was ‘a duty to escape’, and that they could simply break out of anywhere.  A ‘Duty to escape’ this has never been written into the Queen’s regulations and to this day is a commonly misunderstood aspect.  BUT, and it is a big but, it is written that for every day one is held captive and fails to take reasonable steps to rejoin Her Majesty’s forces one may be docked pay.  Or in other words, its not your ‘Duty’ to escape but if you don’t try we can stop paying you…  Hmm, not very British is it!

At the end of the Korean war  the US realised that many of their captured troops had been heavily indoctrinated by the communists and sought to address that.  They wrote their ‘Code of Conduct’ which outlined the simple rules they should follow to defeat any future brainwashing attempts.  However it was not flexible and where people were given ultimatums of talk or die - left no one any space to manoeuvre.  Around about the Vietnam war era the US began to coin the phrase SERE.  They have a very precise definition which has since been universally recognised by NATO along the lines of:

SERE is the suite of skills that allows an Isolated Person (IP) to Survive in the environment, evade capture from hostile forces and if caught resist interrogation while taking action to escape from captivity and get home. (or words to that effect)

SERE (Survive Evade Resist & Escape) (the US model) was further refined by Col Nick Rowe who was a US Special Forces Officer captured early on in the Vietnam conflict and as a result spent 5 years in captivity before eventually escaping and being rescued.  His experiences in captivity  and seeing how strong willed men who correctly followed the Code of Conduct had been killed as a result gave him insight to modify the way the code was interpreted and a new mantra “Return with Honour” began to enter the training.  It forged a way for people to take appropriate actions under duress to stay alive but also keep integrity and honour.

When the British adopted the SERE model and in light of the ‘ESCAPE’ issue highlighted above it was decided that the escape element should really be EXTRACT and it was taught that being rescued was the most likely form of repatriation.  SERE (Survive Evade Resist & EXTRACT) was adopted by and remains the UK model.  However, there have been advances made in escape training, principally as a result of a study written in 2007 by Flt Lt C Allen RAF.  Although almost all UK MoD SERE Training has a SECRET classification, it is not too difficult to dig around the internet and gain a reasonable idea of what it entails. The lion’s share of the classified information regards the ways in which servicemen are taught to deal with hostile questioning.  RTI (Resistance to Interrogation)(Formerly CAC - Conduct After Capture) now known simply as Resistance [Training] covers this in detail.  Suffice to say it isn’t pleasant training and both history and psychologists have demonstrated that everyone will have breaking point.

SERE training is far more than the old E&E or Combat Survival but each nation within NATO may use a slightly different acronym and have a slightly different programme.  Does any of this really matter, well only in so much that if one is talking about SERE and doesn’t know these differences then ignorance will be highlighted and the inevitable questions of qualification and experience will be brought into question.  Consider any subject of which YOU are knowledgeable and consider what your immediate thoughts would be if anyone conversing with you made erroneous statements or incorrect quotations or even used simple the wrong terminology.  Im sure you would be questioning what they really knew or calling them out!

The full SERE Spectrum incorporates Peacetime as well as Conflict and is now described as being Permissive or Non-permissive.  To learn more about SERE and how these subjects can be utilised to keep you safe travelling, on holiday or even in your daily activities, contact us at www.urban-sere.com

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The Island with Bear Grylls - A Survival Programme or Social Experiment?

Tuesday July 2017

You decide…


First off let us establish a few facts and then take it from there…

‘Bear’ or more correctly real name ‘Edward’, has made a very good name for himself and branded is ‘Bear’ name along with ‘BG’ and is associated with many companies such as Gerber and  Cragghoppers.  There is nothing wrong with what he has done and he has sold himself very well.  I applaud him of this marketing and his self promotion.  However, the aftermath of his survival antics is what members of the RNLI, the Mountain Rescue and the Coastguard have to deal with!

Introduction

But before this becomes a bear-hunting mission let us not lose track of a few other facts, he was the youngest briton to summit Everest, he has passed TA SAS Selection and has some other very notable achievements to his name, not least of all the title of Chief Scout.  His survival tactics however are great TV but little else.  He has a back-up team of ‘experts’ to cover his antics when he is filming his own series and safety is never as far away as it  appears. (If you want to know someone who does go it alone then @Ed Stafford is your man) but I digress.

The Island

Ive been asked so many times about ‘the Island’ and what would you do? and was that the right thing to do?  Here it comes…  The Island is great TV and it has nothing to do with (or at least very little to do with) survival!  There I said it! Am I sorry I did, nope not at all.  And here is why:

The people on the Island are carefully selected by psychologists to ensure we get that good mix of tension and conflict, these personalities are designed to make that tv series all the more watchable.

The island environment itself has been chosen for its natural resources and in some cases these have even been augmented and added to with pond liners to collect rain water and extra wildlife put on the island to sustain the ‘survivors’

They have been given machete and survival knives along with metal jerry cans BUT no flint and steel or other fire lighting equipment…  Not the kind of realistic preparation that would happen.  Who in their right minds carries a survival knife and NO means to light a fire.  It’s a halfway house that is neither suggesting of reality nor fully ‘plucked from normality’.

Summary

The environment has been CHOSEN and modified in areas to accommodate the ‘survivors’

The situation and the equipment they have with them is contrived and fabricated.

Psychologically they know that in 6 weeks they will be collected and therefor they make not effort to get rescued…  After all, getting rescued at the earliest point is a ket aspect of survival situations.

Conclusion

Having said all this I am spell bound watching but I have to conclude, this is not a survival show, it is a social experiment based on psychological interaction and the ability for the group live together - FOR SIX WEEKS.  Bring on the next series so I, along with so many others, can hurl abuse at the telly.

Navigation Course

Monday June 2017

Cannock Chase is our setting for this great training opportunity. We recently had a few clients attending and the weather was warm with light winds.

Cannock Chase

The chase has plenty of woodland with rolling countryside, giving at times narrow fields of view and obscured horizons, which means this is a great place to try out all the navigation techniques.   There are many tracks not on the map but most definitely on the ground; there are also tracks on the map that are now overgrown and almost invisible.

After an initial theoretical lesson on what this big piece of paper in our hands is (map) and what it can do we set off into the chase proper to learn the skills and techniques.  At every stage everyone was able to assimilate the information and demonstrate a full understanding before moving on.

It was a long day although the actual mileage wasn’t too long there was plenty of time spent on the basics and by the evening it was beginning to come together with grid references, paces and compass work being used to great effect. Magnetic and Grid were concepts that had to be fully understood in order to utilise the compass in both modes.

Second Day

The second day kicked off with a recap of the previous day and answering any questions that had materialised overnight.  We then began breaking down the navigation legs of the day before into smaller chunks to began micro navigation.  The ability to know where we are at all times and not relying on use of tracks and paths is paramount in true navigation as apposed to simply following paths.  This was particularly taxing at times with the undergrowth hampering observation and the going under foot not too easy at time, especially for pacing.

After several hours it came together and all were able to understand the concepts and demonstrate an understanding of what must be done.  However, this is a skill that needs to be updated and practiced to ensure that it remains at the forefront of the mind and is able to be recalled when needed.  

Everyone should be able to navigate and not rely on GPS and tech aids.

Tryfan Death

Monday May 2017
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Although i first attempted Tryfan in my early teenage years whilst on a Air Cadet expedition, we didn’t get too the top  and the weather forced us to turn back.  Bitterly disappointed it was without doubt the correct decision.  BUT Had we not had Mark Powell a former member of the RAF Mountain Rescue Service guiding us, I wonder how many of us young men would have pushed on ignorant of the risks and blinded by the desire to ‘climb that mountain’.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-39916813


Tryfan in North wales just off the A5 is an imposing lump of rock.  With its many false summits and the shear exposure of the place, anyone who has climbed it will never forget just how intimidating it can be.

Over the years I have scaled it many times and each occasion has always been interesting  and different.  Although there are recognised ascent paths it invariably results in scrambling on hands and knees across exposed faces.  It is simply breath taking!

Having summited it many also undertake the custom of jumping between Adam and Eve, the two blocks on the top that if seen in the distance looks thick a coulee stood together, hence the name.

It is therefore especially to sad to hear that over the last weekend there were several Mountain Rescue Call-outs on Tryfan and unfortunately a death.

Wilderness Survival Training

Thursday April 2017

Wilderness survival training isn’t just for those people who are expecting Armageddon or who have applied to Bear Grylls to spend weeks on an island drinking their own urine! It’s not designed to tackle that kind of episode and speaking frankly - if that’s you’re thing you’re probably past learning anything that will actually be of use in a life threatening situation.

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Let’s take a look for a moment at reality. Let’s dispel the myths and focus on what really counts. Put simply, survival is about confronting those unexpected situations that can cost you your life, staying alive and the getting rescued to return to normal life. It’s about pre-empting and choosing the right gear to carry; knowing how to use it and choosing to do the right thing at the right time. Above all else though, survival is about knowing your own limits, knowing what is an acceptable risk and being able to balance the outcome - should it be unfavourable. That is why people choose adventure holidays, go off-piste skiing, choose to visit difficult-to-reach places and to travel this planet in lonely places. We like to test ourselves and we like to push boundaries BUT we should also value our lives and take sensible precautions.

Attending survival courses is great fun BUT should give you a sensible grounding in what can go wrong and what can be done about it. Mostly though, it should cover sensible planning and preparation to allow you to have an adventure safely, rather than a life threatening epic.

The number of clients we have taught over the years, who have quoted survival manuals, books and even tv programmes as sources of FACT which have in some cases been superseded by documented academic research is concerning.  The Hollywood effect further has a lot to answer for with CGI and camera angles or even stop motion photography used to make the impossible possible or their use of drama and simply “Incorrect techniques” in order to tell the story.  

It wasn’t so long ago that the only people being exposed to many of these risks were proper explorers, whereas nowadays, everywhere is more accessible and everyone thinks they are Sir Ranulph Fiennes.  For those who wander far and wide, get the right information and get trained for your environment.  Understand the risk, the threat and the ways in which you can mitigate those risks to make what you do as safe as it needs to be - manage the risk.  Getting trained and educated should be obvious to stay safe in a dangerous world.

Escape Methodology Training Course

Thursday March 2017

Imagine the scene, You arrive home from work and as you open the door, a masked man thrusts a gun in your face! Or You are using an ATM to withdraw cash and as you look round a hooded youth brandishes a knife at you! Or You stop your car at a road junction and someone opens your door and bundles you across the seat whilst assaulting you viciously!


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That in itself would be horrific but as these scenarios develop you are possibly (arguably likely) to be restrained, tied up possibly with your own stuff: tie, phone cord or cable.  Maybe if its very well planned they come equipped with Cable ties or even handcuffs. Maybe chain and padlocks.  If you look through the news papers for the last year you’ll find many example of exactly this happening around the world but more worryingly even at home, here in the UK this has happened and will continue to happen.

The escape methodology course that Urban-SERE ran 25-26 Mar 2017 covered this topic and gave those who attended the skills, knowledge and experience to better deal with any of these situations.  Understanding the danger times and when and what to consider.

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This training is empowering and give confidence in personal ability.  It dispels the ‘Jason Bourne’ and the ‘James Bond’ and the ‘Hollywood effect’ that watching films has ingrained in us.  It focusses attention and gives life-skills to deal with high stress situations as well as being good fun.

And now, heaven forbid that when travelling abroad or even here at home, should the unimaginable happen those trained are much better prepared to deal with the situation and protect their family and property.  The examples we use to illustrate our points are all real world examples and as we have access to some real life hostages we have been able to use their debriefs to validate techniques and research.  We have been teaching these skills for some time now, mostly to specialist teams and units of the Metropolitan Police (as well as Military), however, as the world is becoming more dangerous and we expose ourselves to greater risk through travel, we have decided to open this training to those who consider they require it.

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In the Company of Heroes

Sunday March 2017

RAF Mountain Rescue Service (MRS) Reunion RAF Stafford Team

The RAF Mountain Rescue Service (MRS) was set up in 1941 to recover the all important aircrews who were crashing in the mountain of the UK.  Inhospitable areas such as Snowdonia and the Peak District all required a Mountain Rescue Team (MRT) to cover those areas.  Aircraft could be replaced but the aircrews were far harder to select and train and therefore rescuing them became an all important role.

Wherever there was a risk of RAF Aircrews crashing in remote areas there was a RAF MRT set up.  In the 1960s the MRS further branched out into desert rescue too, in full support of RAF Operations in the Middle East.  In fact the desert rescue teams visited areas that were only otherwise visited by beduin and the SAS as they conducted their operations across the deserts.

In 1988 our own @Conrad Allen volunteered to join this select bunch, having first been made aware of their existence some 6 years earlier while spending time as an Air Cadet.  The selection process was simple:  You filled in a form and were then either detached to one of the six RAF MRTs or if you happened to be serving at one of those units that parented an MRT, you went to the Team leader and he explained what would happen.   Basically, Conrad had now become a ‘Trialist’, the rather grand and often derogatory term used to refer to those attempting the selection process.  For the following 3 weekends he would deploy with the MRT and be put through a series of tests from rock climbing to hill walking.  None of which was as straight forward as you would expect.   The MRTs were not looking for the fittest or the most capable climbers or runners, they were however, looking for those few who posessed the right qualities, had the right attitude and would fit into this very small band of brothers.  Their thoughts being someone with the right qualities, but lacking fitness or skills, can be made fit and can learn those skills.  And so the caliber of every RAF MRT member was, and is to this day, extremely high although possibly the biggest bunch of misfits known.

The Kegworth Hotel were the MRT stayed after the M1 aircraft crash in Jan ‘88


Last weekend was the RAF Stafford Team reunion and it was great to be back among this band of brothers reliving the rescues, the crashed aircraft incidents and basically trying to drink each other under the table.  I had been on many callouts with these guys, from the harrowing Lockerbie & M1 Kegworth disasters to military aircraft crashes as well as many crag fast climbers, missing  walkers and we’ve seen our share of bodies and recovered them.  A great reunion and chance to see guys we haven’t seen in some cases for over 20 years.  Although their bodies were not as able as they had been years ago, not one of them would have thought twice at anytime about putting themselves at risk to save others and so goes the motto of the RAFMRS ‘Whensoever’.

Mobile Phones and Personal Security - Safety

Friday March 2017
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A recent BBC Story - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-39003392, tells the story of an Immigrant worker, an employee of NASA being stopped on re-entry to the country (USA) and being forced to hand over his mobile phone and all the passkeys.  Hey presto, 30 mins after handing it over and giving full access to his phone and it being out of his sight! He is allowed to go on his merry way.

Access To Data

Our main problems with this story are:

  • Uncontrolled access to ALL data held on smart phone including passwords and other account data etc
  • Ability for govt agency to hack and embed reporting malware on phone without individual’s knowledge or consent
  • Hostile Intelligence gathering
  • Denied entry to a country where resident (God only knows what may happen to non-residents or visitors, having to submit passwords in order to get a visa?)
  • The list goes on…

But also, this sets a precedent which is a dangerous thing.

Turned Back At Border

I know of a UK National being recently turned back at the US border despite having had a valid Visa and having been there plenty of times.  The reason, well this is a good one, “Mr Smith, you seem to be travelling here a lot recently so we are gong to refuse you entry!”.  And its as simple as that.  It’s probably important to firstly establish the fact that Governments have a certain amount of power and in their own country that is a LOT of power.  This is a game that will not be won by the individual, hell ‘we’ don’t even know the rules!

So what Can We Do About It

Preparing for this eventuality is possibly the key, preparation should focus on plausible deniability and if necessary having ‘spare’ accounts and phones to satisfy the officials without giving too much information away.  

The phone in question was an iPhone and therefore we are tackling this particular phone ONLY.  The news story results in the suggestion of taking a burner phone, doing away with a smart phone for travel?  However, that in itself, being a cheap and non-smart phone could raise questions, since almost everyone now has a smartphone.  So we have another possible course of action.

If you back up your iPhone completely you will have a copy of all the information you currently have on your iPhone. If you then factory reset your iPhone you will have totally clean phone that requires setting up from scratch.  A new iTunes account not linked in any way by the same credit card will keep these two accounts separate.

Set up the phone as a new iPhone and only install those aspects you require and keeping all personal data safeguarded (Perhaps a PAYG Sim too).  If the phone is taken from you and you are forced to hand over passwords, there is at least limitations on what they can access.  You could then restore the back up, possibly from the cloud, to use for the duration of your trip and then reverse the process to travel home.  Safeguarding the Sim cards and not ‘contaminating either with the other’s information’.

Anything that we store as digital data is vulnerable and that’s why the Russian Secret Service has gone back to typewriters and ribbons.  They are more easily secured than any ‘Digital Media' 

Think Security - Stay Safe!

Barcelona - Lorry (Attack?)

Thursday February 2017

Introduction

The Metropolitan Police Service are aware of an incident that which taken place in Barcelona, on the morning of Tuesday 21 February 2017.  A Lorry drove the wrong direction along a road near the city’s harbour area in Barcelona, Spain and collided with several other vehicles.  Reportedly the local police opened fire on the vehicle and detained the driver. 

Terrorist Methodology?

Although we are seeing an increase in attacks and terrorist activity using Lorries this does not mean that every lorry we see driving erratically or in fact in the wrong direction is indeed a terror attack.

Most Likely

In the UK we have had several terrible accidents over the last couple of years involving ‘run-away’ trucks and unfortunately their effects are no less damaging or deadly.  However, terrorism, although an increased risk, is still unlikely in most events.  BUT any heavy goods vehicle can cause incredible amounts of damage with the momentum of 40+ tons being hard to stop.  Whether we are driving or pedestrian.  Therefore we should be more aware of our surroundings and make use of barriers to help separate us from those locations where any such vehicles could easily mount the footpath, cross the road or otherwise put us in danger whether that be a terrible accident or a terrorist attack.

Situational Awareness

Our situational awareness needs to be better improved - so we advise if pedestrian - you do not walk along the street head-down texting or looking at phones, but rather we keep heads-up and alert to any possible risks and threats.  What are we next to that could be a target and what can we see around and about us? If driving, which lane should we be in and can we be visible to any lorries, are we boxed in or have we enough room to manoeuvre past any obstructions?  It is far better that we are slightly paranoid and take effective action to cross the road and avoid areas with heavy traffic and lorries than it is for us to be the unwitting victim of either an accident or terror attacks.  In either circumstances death is not the outcome we would like.

Jumps Course - Tilstock Parachute Centre

Tuesday February 2017

As the summer is in-bound imminently, keep telling yourself that, it’s time to get back in the air.

For anyone who hasn’t tried it, parachuting is a real thrill but also a chance to go through extremes of emotions in a controlled manner. There is nothing casual about jumping out of an aeroplane, even after several hundred jumps, although it is very safe it carries an inherent risk.  In fact, you are more at risk travelling to the Dropzone in a car than you ever will be parachuting and skydiving. Being under emotional stress, the fear of the unknown and the resultant shutting down of awareness are all characteristics of this sport, certainly during early jumps but also are very similar rates that we experience in survival situations. Our own @Conrad Allen, a British Parachute Association (BPA) Category System Instructor, delivered this course at Tilstock Parachute Centre on behalf of the club there..

We have negotiated a deal with the Dropzone and hope to be delivering some urban-sere specific parachuting courses there soon.  We will incorporate survival psychology into these courses and use the parachute jump as a conduit to deliver real survival skills that will be transferable through the SERE Spectrum.

Free Giveaways

Monday January 2017

As our e-commerce software was finally installed and working we decided to give away some safety advice and aide memories to get the ball rolling.

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Survival Aide Memoire

Arctic Survival Aide Memoire

Personal Emergency Safety & Travel Security document

This has given us the opportunity to iron out any potential gremlins in the system without causing any distress to customers or at any cost to them. We all hate to give our payment details over the internet anyway, so having problems erupt as a result is not only distressing but also time consuming, something many of us have so little of these days.

We have now simplified the processes for downloading free information and 

Underwear Prevents Sexual Assault

Monday January 2017

A need to seriously understand Causes and symptoms.

https://www.facebook.com/LADbible/videos/3078510372196132/

The URL above goes to a site showing some ‘special pants’ for women that are locked in place, cannot be torn down, are tear resistant and cut resistant too.  Now on the face of it this may seem like a great idea to protect our ladies from sexual assault but lets take a slightly different look…

If an assailant has got to the stage of trying to rape his victim and then comes up against the ‘special pants’ surely his frustration is highly likely to result in serious physical assault, possibly even to the point of murder.  After all, we are not dealing with level headed people but sick individuals who have no regard for personal space.

However, if we teach the principles of avoidance and self protection, then there should never be a time when our women are exposing themselves to this potential danger.  I’m not suggesting that ladies cannot dress how they wish or even go where they want but I am suggesting that the hierarchy of Risk Control, which is nothing new to anyone carrying out health and safety Risk Assessments, if used correctly, identifies there are 4 levels of control to examine before getting to the ‘wear protective clothing’ state of affairs.

Our First step should be to Eliminate the risk, that risk of being sexually assaulted.  SO I would suggest that not drinking to excess and thereby being vulnerable is stage one.  The second and third steps are to Reduce and Isolate the risk, and simply put ensuring that ladies are not left alone to walk home and are always with friends that they trust will significantly Reduce and Isolate the Risk to crowded areas where any assailant is unlikely to attack and where assistance and help is on hand.  The fourth step would include a ‘Safe System’ and in these circumstances, we can think of this as following simple guidance such as only meeting on first-dates in crowded places and with a chaperone.  Perhaps making sure that we have agreed signals to highlight any duress to friends even from across a crowded bar.  Carrying out due diligence on anyone we are meeting.  Lets be frank here, I imagine that most internet dating profiles are either wholly or partly false, it could be the name it could be details of personality but without a doubt, internet dating has some serious security issues to be addressed.  Lastly and only after all of the previous stages have been exhausted or even combined should we consider the ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ (PPE) that began this blog post.  Simply put, resorting to this PPE does not in anyway manage the risk posed, in fact it takes a stark look at the risk of sexual assault and instead of mitigating the chances of it happening, it stumbled blindly towards that assault hoping above all hope that the ‘special pants’ will prevent that rape.  We should of course be preventing  any possible contact with a would be assailant in the first place.

Treat the Cause, not the Symptom

Arctic Night Half Marathon - Tromso, Norway

Sunday January 2017

The days of total darkness 300km inside the Arctic Circle where the sun doesn’t show itself for a whole month.

Introduction

I was lucky enough to meet Alison when I joined my local running club ‘Stamford Striders’, she was the first person to welcome me.  So some four years later it was with great sadness that I heard of the passing of Alison Regan via the club website mail shot.  That name ‘Alison Regan’ probably means very little most people but to anyone who met her she was special, friendly and mad about running.  Married with children she was as ordinary as each of us but in a special way.  What affected me most about the loss of Alison, bearing in mind I’d not seen her or her husband Jim for some time, was that she was about my age and was struck down with a rapid illness over only a few months.  As I sat and pondered what had happened I suddenly became very aware that I was so lucky to be alive and that I should stop putting off those things that I had for so long.  We never know when the end is coming.  The result was a short list of accomplishments I wanted to achieve and signing up to the Arctic Night - Half Marathon in Tromso.  And so, this is where this story really began.

As Tromso is such a long way north I had decided to make a trip of it and planned to do some Telemark Skiing while there to.  Having had the idea I then needed to ensure I wouldn’t back out and I’ve personally found that telling everyone what ‘the plan is’ doesn’t give me any room to wriggle out of it or to quietly forget.  That was all a few months back and as I sat in Oslo airport awaiting my transfer to Tromso and watching the sun set for the last time for a week, it all became a reality.  At this time of year Tromos is bathed in darkness 24/7 and not until the week after I return home will the sun show itself; even then its only up for 11 minutes!  

Arrival in the Arctic

As my flight descended in to the island of Tromso and its windswept airport, I knew from the turbulence alone that the whole experience would be exactly what I was expecting and so much looking forward to; that feeling of taking risks but also of being alive.  After collecting the baggage and my companion, Simon, we got a taxi to our hotel in the centre of town - no mean feat with 210cm skis in tow…  

After a very quick unpack and deciding that we had earned the fact, we headed to the nearest bar and found O’leary’s, a sports bar showing ski jumping competitions and ably staffed by “Ollie” a Brit from, would you believe it - Kettering.  After several beers at a ridiculous price and all our money later we headed for home. feeling alike we were ready to face that Arctic and all it could throw at us…  The temperature being a chilly minus 8.

Fast-foward 6 hours to a rather barmy 0900 hours as we awoke, the temperature was a  crazy PLUS 1 and forecast to rise to an almost bearable PLUS 2.  BUT we had to contend with rain and as the windchill was taking the temperature way below zero as soon as it fell, it was turning to ice.  “What are you planning on running in” I asked over breakfast and and together Simon and I discussed and decided that we should at least consider getting spikes for our shoes.  A quick walk (icy waddle) along the high street and we found ourselves at an outdoor chop where we almost walked straight into a display selling over show running spikes, ‘Jackpot’.  Eyeing the price we quickly mused the prospect of leaving them till later but as we considered that prospect there was another couple of Brits asking the same questions we had considered, “Hi, we are from the UK and running tomorrow, do you happen to have spikes that could… Blah Blah Blah!” and then another couple and then another… We had to buy them or risk losing them, so as we departed being wished lots of luck and many Kroner lighter in the pocket, we were at least equipped for the icy and worsening conditions under foot.  

Content, we set off for the sight-seeing and touristy bit and the inevitable cost, again ending the day at O’Leary’s bar…  Race preparation at it’s best, to which any Stamford Strider can attest.  We saw in the new day with a Gin and Tonic and for me a realisation that Alison Regan’s death had affected me in many ways but mostly that I was now going to live life to the fullest.  We really do have no idea when it will end and should always bear that in mind!

Arctic Night Half Marathon

As the big day dawned and we headed for breakfast we were becoming aware of the weather and all that it entailed.  Almost everyone we saw we now suspiciously eyes as potential runners and as we devoured our hearty breakfast we got our plan of action together.  We headed straight out to the registration at the town hall and collected our race pack with numbers but we drew the line at spending £50 on a glow in the dark Northern Lights race T-shirt…  The race wasn’t due to start till 1500 hours but it was already getting gloomy and dark as we headed back to our hotel for more hydration, preparation and in Simons case a little nap.

As the start time of 1500 hours neared we pinned on numbers and checked we had enough of everything with us, clothing, spikes and the obligatory gels…  We walked up the street to the gathering crowd of similarly dressed runners and prepared to meet the challenge. There was just one large starting pen and as the gun went off there were slow runners in front of fast  and even walkers in the throng.  As I found space and fought for position I crossed the line and started my Garmin watch.  The race had begun and as we ran through the streets, the gathered crowd cheering us on, it was snowing and all seemed good.

We’re Off

The streets darkened as we neared the edge of town and up through housing where families were standing in the front of their houses cheering and ringing bells and the atmosphere was so friendly.  Large , what I can only describe as tea lights, lit the path and before I really took stock I was at the first water stop. It was sleeting and the hailing by this time and id taken my hat off as I was quite warm but the hard cold rain soon had my hood coming up.  

As I said hi and briefly chatted to everyone who I past and to everyone who past me, it was going to be the friendliest Half Marathon I’d ever run but certainly not the fastest.  Around the 5 mile point the front runner came back towards me and was running at a great pace; he must have been about 2 miles ahead of me.  The next thing to come into view was the airport where I knew there was a few switch backs and another water stop but more importantly a chance to see where Simon my colleague was in the group.  After the first switch back I caught sight of him and he was running very well considering it was his first half marathon.

Now on the homeward leg I braced myself as the wind bit hard and the snow and sleet bounced off my face.  Through half closed eyes  and gritted teach I pushed on trying desperately to keep up with a pair of local runners who were doing very well and about my pace.  I stayed with them for around 5 miles but as we cam back into town I could feel I had a blister on a toe and my thigh, soaked and numb with cold, were also telling me they’d had enough.  My pace slowed a little for the last mile but I didn’t care, the crowds were chearing and the final few hundred meters was again lit up with candles like a small runway with it slights on, ready to welcome home the runners.  I crossed the line, stopped my watch, shook the hand of the guy putting a medal around my neck and then the Red Cross were wrapping me up like an oven ready chicken!   I joined all the others who had finished for a drink and banana around a roaring brazier and finally looked at the time, two hours and just under three minutes.  Without doubt the slowest Half Marathon I’d ever run but in the conditions I had experienced and for the whole atmosphere - the most memorable.

A Moment of Thought

Not forgetting that it was the loss of a friend that had galvanised me into action and made this a reality, I retired to the bar for a well earned drink and to show off my medal - whilst thinking of the next excursion I intend to undertake.  We never know when our time will come and I urge everyone to make the most of every day.  That rainy day we put things off ‘til may never arrive!  We are all here for a finite period of time and I really don’t want to be that person who looks back with regret that I didn’t try hard enough or simply didnt get round to doing ‘this or that’. I am grateful to Alison for being the inspiration and I’m sorry for Jim, her husband, and everyone who knew or simply met her now that she is gone.  

As I spend the next few days Nordic skiing around the area and the snow is falling I wonder what else I will now be challenged to face and how much more of life I will live.


#Castaway 2015

Friday December 2016

Taransay Island of the west coast of Harris off the west coast of Scotland

Introduction

When Conrad Allen of Urban-SERE was contacted by Simon K Barr of Tweed Media he could tell Simon had a vision and a very clear idea in his own mind what he wanted to achieve.  As the idea was relayed to Conrad it went something like “Basically I wanted to take a group of unsuspecting journalists out to a remote uninhabited island and abandon them for 3 days with only the means to hunt.  Normally they expect to be wined and dined at a product launch so forcing them to actually use the products and hunt for food is a bit different”.  It rapidly became obvious that this was a very ingenious way to promote the products and so Conrad’s role was to make it happen as far as keeping everyone alive for the survival aspects went.  Simon would be dealing with the overall event and Steve, the estate manager of Borve Lodge who own Taransay, would be heading up the hunting aspects.

Ideas

So began several conference calls and many emails over the course of a few months to iron out any possible and foreseeable stumbling blocks.  As the event approached our greatest concerns were that the weather, scheduled to be wet and windy any the best of times would be far worse.  We would be catching the tail end of a hurricane and winds in excess of 70mph were expected.  Looking at the map and the relief of the land it was agreed that the whole group would be best dropped off on the North Coast using the estates Falklands war landing craft.  This would give everyone the ability to scavenge from the flotsam and jetsam on the North coast and then head in land to get some shelter from the elements.

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Shock

As the groups assembled it was obvious that they had no idea what was about to happen.  Kitted out with clothing by Ridgeline and rifles by Sauer Ammunition by Hornady and optics by Leica, everyone boarded the landing craft for what they believed to be a day trip to Taransay.  As the group disembarked and the landing craft backed away it was only at that point that the whole idea was put to the group. As simon explained that the boat was not coming back for three days and if they wanted food they would have to hunt successfully.  With that sinking in Conrad was revealed as the Survival expert and not the photographer he had been posing as and the adventure began.  Collecting and scavenging anything that may be of use the whole group then headed in land to a more sheltered area to set up a camp and get a shelter constructed from what had been found including a tarpaulin.

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Strong Winds and Strong Character

During the first night as we settled down to sleep and caught the tail end of the hurricane the boulders we had used to hold down the tarp, which were pretty substantial, were being blown around like marbles.  It really was a case of just holding on to the tarp and huddling inside the bivy bags to see out the storm.  The winds finally abated and everyone somewhat shocked by the nights weather awoke to a grey drizzly but calm day.  The adventure began in earnest and as a group headed out hunting Conrad had a small group to sort out the camp…

Later that day Conrad took a small foraging party back to the north coast and collected limpets and seaweed to make a broth.  Using the peat for fuel an old sweet tin was used as a cauldron and the soup took shape.  Watching a dejected, tired and wet through group of hunters walk back into camp empty handed was soul destroying for everyone.  The decision was made to move the camp to an old bothy on the South of the island and where Steve thought the hunting would be better for the morning.  We gathered all our meagre belongings and trudged over the hills to the South and found the bothy.  It had four walls and very little roof but it was a to us a five star hotel.  

Food at Last

As we collected drift wood, got the fire going and settled in for another night on the remote island of Taransay, we were all praying that first light would bring a better hunting opportunity.

It did and as the group watched from the front of the bothy Steve and one of the journalists staked into the stag and took the shot.  It was a well placed shot that brought us breakfast and the first real food in three days.  It never tasted so good or probably ever will again.  Cooking chunks of fresh venison on sticks over a roaring fire and sitting on a white sand beach.  As we did so, the sun came out and the clouds parted and the world was peaceful.  As we sat back chatting and watching the sea, it was soon time to gather our gear and board the landing craft that was just reaching the beach.

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The Conclusion

My blog can never do justice to this story fully so please use the links below.  You can watch the whole thing in the three episodes.

https://youtu.be/9iWhwv9EVL4
https://youtu.be/2JSXUufteH8
https://youtu.be/_O34MIbpCOs


#Leica #Hornady #Sauer #Ridgeline #BorveLodge

#Tested to the Edge

Wednesday December 2016

The greatest test of equipment and people… From Oct 2016

The Idea
Simon K Barr from Tweed media had the great idea to test hunters and their hunting equipment in the harshest of environments and above all to get back to the basics of hunting…
The Coming Together
Bringing together Six of the world’s top hunting journalists, equipment ranges of the best available and setting the scene in the right place and the right time was no mean feat.  After six months of planning we were finally making it all happen.  The journalists only knew to be at Stockholm airport at 12:00 on Sunday 2 Oct 2016 and to bring with good boots and a toothbrush.
At that point none of them knew we were flying onwards North to Lulea in Swedish Lapland or that they would then be driving further North from there. As Simon revealed a little more information awaiting the flights the excitement grew.  

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When we stopped at the Arctic circle for a photo opportunity and the temperature was already well below freezing and the darkness all consuming.

Simon and Conrad, from Urban-SERE Ltd, were being driven by Tommy Holmberg (Nordguide) who would be guiding the hunting party, allowing for full and open discussion of the project without the rest of the party eaves dropping.
The Reveal
Only on arrival at the cabins, where we were to spend the first day zeroing rifles and being issued our #Swazi clothing, did Simon elaborate to all what was going to happen.  It was important that everyone understood what they were embarking on since once we began the trek it was unlikely we could split the team to cater for any wishing to depart early.  The risk management side of the trip was covered by Urban-SERE along with the medical contingency plan; both needing to be extremely robust.  With a medpack that would do justice to a larger expedition owing to the use of firearms and the remoteness of the location, there was no point in taking chances.

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It Begins
The first day of the expedition involved a long walk through the Swedish forest with great views occasionally coming into view.  With Tommy using his GPS to take us to the camp location and Conrad relying on map and compass the party trudged on with the intermittent yapping of the dogs indicating the wildlife to be hunted.

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The Proof
After the long walk we arrived at the preselected camp site with only  a few hours of light remaining and shelters to be built and a supply of firewood to be collected.  There as no chance of assistance should we get it wrong and accordingly Conrad was conscious that the group as a whole, tired as they were, would have to push on and collect plenty more than the minimum.  The cold night would ensure plenty of fire wood would get burned and there was no second chances if the wood ran out.  With hunger also paying a part in the proceedings energy levels were beginning to flag.  Needless to say the fore that first night were far bigger than needed and the depleted firewood supplies that remained in the morning was testament to the limited survival skills of the journalists.

As the second day dawned and several hunting parties set off, Conrad took the remainder and set to work on improving the thermal qualities of the shelters and in gathering a sensible quantity of fire wood for the coming night.  As the mid morning sun rose higher those of us at camp who were burning calories chopping and building heard the shot and hoped that the hunting skills of those parties were successful.

As they returned to camp with the meat from a moose calf we knew that we would at least eat that day.

The Film
The whole expedition was filmed and photographed by Simon and the journalists and edited to make this great short film about the trip.

https://www.facebook.com/LeicaHunting/videos/1205559102833147/

During ‘tested to the edge’ the equipment was put through its paces and stood up to very close scrutiny (Clothing by  #Swazi Rifles by #Mauser Optics by #Leica Ammunition by #Hornady)

Just as everyone else did, Conrad lost at least seven kilos in bodyweight and  had an experience most can only dream of or read about.

Telemark Skiing - Success At Last..

Sunday December 2016

After 12 hours of self teaching over the last 3 weeks…

https://vimeo.com/196040044

After what seems like an age Conrad finally manages a gentle slope with a little style and without too much carnage being unleashed on the world.

The cable binding gives so much freedom for the heal to lift that it takes some getting used to if, like Conrad, you’ve spend many years with heals locked down in rigid ski boots.  Where as normal control in ski boots is gained by leaning forward to control the tips, with Telemark boots and binding the wide and forward backwards stance i the stability and the skis seem to take forever to turn so its a case of staying stable and waiting for turn to happen.

As this venture progresses in preparation for a week in Tromso in Jan 2017, you can guarantee that the fun will really begin when 300km inside the Arctic Circle.

London City Airport Exercise

Monday December 2016

Every couple of years airports have to participate in a realistic crash and disaster exercises to show that they have in place all appropriate measures to deal with such disasters.

“The aircraft was descending with the first officer at the controls until just before touchdown a birdstrike changed everything…”

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Introduction
As the goose came through the windscreen the first officer was killed outright.  Thats the kind of trauma a 18lb goose has on a body at over a hundred miles per hour.  As the captain tried to gain control and get the aircraft on the ground safely it slewed to the right and crossing the runway’s grass edge it collided with a vehicle coming to a stop with that vehicle in its side under the cockpit…

That was the back story for the exercsie that took place at London City Airport on Sat 3 Dec 2016.

Involvement
Urban SERE has been involved with Crisis caste for some time now and they provide realistic scenario based exercises for training with professionally trained actors able to play their parts to fullest effect.  Add into the mix their professionals at setting up  and filming these exercises you can see that the potential for realistic training while capturing the realtime footage for de-briefs is second to none.

Watching the fire crews deal with twenty dazed and stunned passengers as well as the dozen or so with very detailed back stories and the ability to really make their stories come alive was interesting to see.  Certainly during most on my time training these sort of exercises quickly grind to a hold as the volunteers not trained in acting skills can only scream for so long and don’t have the ability to improvise and keep within the realms of reality.

External Agencies
This exercsie involved not only the airport fire crews but also the London Fire Brigade as well as the London Ambulance Service and all manner of other agencies who have to interact in such a disaster.  Conrad’s experience of dealing with major aircraft disasters in the RAF and especially with the RAF Mountain Rescue Services speciality skills in the area, he was ideally placed to help rig the pyrotechnics and get some filming done of the carnage.  And, after all how many chances do you you get to fly a drone around an airport capturing the scenes of a crash exercise with smoke and more flashing blue lights that you can imagine.

Setting-up
The aircraft fuselage was brought in on a low loader and we were only able to access the site as son as all operations has ceased around 1300 on Sat 3 December.  The it was all hands to make a cradle to stabilise the aircraft as there would be around 30-40 people climbing all over it and it needed to be chocked steady.  No point in this exercise becoming a drama…  Then we had to rig the area for the pyrotechnics and ensure that all safety distances were adhered to, which meant keeping most of the casualties out of the fuselage until after we had blown it and then quickly getting them all onboard so hey could all sail out over the airfield.

Exercise - Exercise - Exercise
At around a quarter to Five we popped the smoke and set fire to the debris field and blew the napalm containers… Flash bag and smoke all sequenced in line with Mitch (Crisis Cast Director’s) meticulously planned sequence of events.  We only had one take and we had to go with the flow once that first flash had happened.

The Trueways Departure

Friday May 2016

After 8 years my association with Trueways Survival has ended, the last 5 years of which as Chief Instructor.

The Conrad and Trueways story, told by Conrad Allen.
INTERVIEW
When I first approached Trueways in Nov 2008 answering an advert for instructors, I knew nothing of their background or this business sector in general.  After an interview lasting a few hours it was apparent that the company was catering for market akin to bushcraft but using Lofty Wiseman’s name to differentiate it.  The actual survival skills were far from revolutionary.
The then Owner Lyndon Docherty was the business brain and the then Chief instructor was Glyn David.  There was a small number of instructors, none of which had any pedigree in either survival or real instructional ability or qualifications.  Jordan, for example, was an eighteen year old who had attended every type of Trueways course, read the SAS survival handbook cover to cover and learned only on Trueways courses.  This did little to address the their significant shortfalls in how and what they were teaching at that time (circa 2007/2008).
POOR TRAINING ETHICS
Although there was a healthy client base the courses at that stage were very basic lacking structure and to be frank the only difference between the 2, 3 or 5 day course was the duration.  On the shorter courses the frame for a nature shelter was made and then covered in a tarp and in so doing, clients were not taught how to make a proper natural shelter or how to properly use the tarp they carried as a basha.  
THE SHOP - BEGINNINGS OF UNCERTAINTY
The internet boom was in full flow and their internet shop, run from Glyn’s home in Aberdeen, was doing a booming trade.  However, internal wrangling soon saw the internet shop manager sacked and Lyndon, being the entrepreneur, saw an opportunity to open a proper shop.  That shop was opened in Byfleet (2010) with Lofty in attendance and did very well.  After the first year it was decided to take the Trueways shop to the high street and a lease was taken out in Guildford and accordingly the shop moved.  Once again Lofty was in attendance and all seemed to be going well.  Courses were being run and plenty of clients were attending courses and the shop was turning over stock well.
Then, what no one could see coming, within 6 months there was that dreaded crash in the economy and the result was the shop running costs were more than the school was making.  Before the company could be bankrupted the decision was taken to liquidate and the school be moved across to a new company which is the ‘Trueways’ we all now know.  As a result of those business decisions the main management team broke up and Lyndon was facing a huge debt to clear but unable to trust his chief instructor.  The liquidation of Trueways was costing fortune and debts were mounting.
CONRAD THE CHIEF INSTRUCTOR
Step forward Conrad.  Owed a considerable amount of money most of the instructors decided that they were not willing to work to turn around the situation and left on bad terms.  Aware that the only way to recoup the thousands of pounds owed to me I had to find a way to make Trueways successful again.  That was when my freelancing as the chief instructor began.  We continued to deliver the ‘legacy’ courses and many of them were vastly over attended with only a couple of instructors.  We had to clear a backlog of nearly a hundred clients who had booked and paid for courses but whose money was tied up on the liquidation.  We weer working for a pittance to clear the backlog but in order to keep everyone happy we honoured those courses sold previously to keep the good name of Trueways buoyant.
We all worked hard and the debt was cleared in under eighteen months and I was agin being paid for my efforts and the new instructors I had brought in were keeping Trueways on rack.  The whole syllabus was re written with latest best practice brought to bear and no sooner had we introduced levels of training, we saw other survival and bushcraft companies follow suit.  Once again Trueways was on top!
At that time circa 2012 Lyndon stepped away from the coalface and left his friend Paul Simpson to manage the business side of the company with me still running the delivery of all the courses, creating new courses and ensuring we had instructors available.
From running four times of courses when I first went to Trueways, we had expanded to running more than ten varieties and all written by Urban-SERE and effectively licensed to Trueways through my delivery and that of the instructors I found for them.  
MISMANAGEMENT AND INTERNAL MISTRUST
As I put the final touches to a film I had made with lofty to be released at Christmas 2015, it was becoming increasingly difficult for me and Paul to work together.  I was always having to wait to get paid and insisting that I looked after the other instructors first, I was always going to be at the bottom of the money pile.  The film was intended to bring in a steady income stream but Paul was unable to market it and it sold few copies.  Furthermore the number of clients arriving on courses having been told nothing short of lies to get them to sign up was making the job of instructing a whole lot harder.  Hire equipment isn’t booked and the attitude of the office was very much ‘You’re the instructor they’re there, you deal with it’
After returning from the Arctic course, which would just break even, it seemed that Trueways was going to go under.  I was looking for an exit strategy and as luck would have it Ken plows, an attendee on the arctic course, seemed interested.  I put him in touch with Lyndon and at that point to say things turned nasty within the Trueways ‘family’ would be an under statement.  I was owed over £6k and despite Trueways taking £8-9k a month they seemed unable to even settle routine monthly bills.
TRUEWAYS WAS SOLD - CONRAD LEAVES
In May 2016 the sale finally went through and Ken Plows became the new owner of Trueways.  Even though I had been promised by Lyndon I would have  chance to match any offer I was never given that chance.  Paul did everything he could to poison my working relationship and after meeting with Ken and being asked to take a 30% pay cut but carry on doing the same duties, I decided that my time at Trueways was over.  
It was obvious that things would not change and above all it was not fair for paying clients to be handled and treated the way they were.
I would concentrate fully on my Urban-SERE Ltd which had taken more of a backseat than it deserved.  Having severed my association with Trueways I was able to get the money I was owed and now run my specialist courses.
Urban-SERE is growing from strength to strength with its new website going live in early Dec 2016.

Return From Arctic

Sunday March 2016

The extremes of temperature and harsh conditions makes Arctic Survival Courses challenging…

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Heading off to the Arctic - Swedish Lapland

Introduction

When I had the idea to run an arctic course it took three years of trying to get any real interest.  those management people at Trueways didn’t seem able to market it and certainly didn’t know what was involved in putting together a course like this.

Planning and preparation was going to take quite some time and if it was for my good friend Fredrik Rye Ramburg in Sweden, it would have been much harder.  As it was, although Fredrik had spoken to the camp ground manager, we were still going in fairly blind. With fredrik and I both military we knew we could not only plan but also run an excellent course.

Background

With Trueways having the tag line ‘Real Skills for Real situations’ and claiming to be all things survival it was important for me to extend that supposed font of knowledge and actually prove it.  After all I had give interviews to Paper on behalf of Trueways Survival as their Chief instructor a nd with my experiences in Norways and the military that was all well and good.  BUT I hadn’t been to the arctic for nearly 8 years and to let Trueways put me in the position of claiming to be the font of knowledge I needed to get my ass back out there.

It seems in this business sector there are many company that are happy to wing-it and just just make unsubstantiated claims that they hope and expect will never be followed up on.

Course

The course was essentially a four phase development with learning being followed by practice and this building blocks being used to further gain experience.  Those phases being: Classroom (indoor/outdoor) introduction to the extreme cold environment; static practice phase including two nights out in -20C temperature range; travel across snow and navigation theory and training phase including improvised snow shoes and lastly a ‘lost kit’ night out with pocket contents and day sack.  

This was all handles very well from the training and administration perspective although a coulee of attendees elected to leave mid way through course for personal reasons and that was a shame.

Recovery

Having delivered an outstanding course it was a case of getting everyone back to Lulea to catch their flight and at last Conrad could enjoy that beer without having to be on duty.