In a flash, one of my captors whipped a sack over my head. I heard the sucking sound of duct tape. He looped a strand around my neck, and then another several times over and around my wrists. It happened so fast that I barely had time to panic.
Then my unseen assailant tilted my head back. I felt water running down the hood, and when I inhaled I sucked in wet cloth. Some primal switch inside me flipped. My heart rate skyrocketed, adrenaline surged. Through the hood I saw a flash of blue and heard what must be the last sound an insect hears when it flies into a bug zapper. I felt the stun gun on my shoulder, followed by a bolt of pain. It was then that I screamed.
My kidnapping ordeal was part of a so-called Urban Escape and Evasion course, a training program run by the New Jersey–based outfit onPoint Tactical, whose clients have included Navy SEALS and special ops forces from various federal agencies, as well as regular folks like me. I’d spent the previous two days in a hotel conference room, studying everything from how to pick locks to “social engineering” (persuading strangers to do stuff for you). For the simulation on the last day of the three-day course—which runs roughly $800—I put my newfound skills to the test as the object of a simulated manhunt that had me making my way on foot across L.A.
It sounds crazy, like the 1997 Michael Douglas film The Game, but to some thrill seekers, the course offers a rare opportunity to tap into their dormant survival instinct—not to mention their teenage fantasies. “There’s something about being a guy where you want to be a superhero,” said Neil Strauss, who took the course as part of the research for his 2009 best-seller Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life. With onPoint’s courses, he added, “you get to be Jason Bourne. You get to be James Bond.”
The first two days of the course I attended—the run-up to that harrowing interrogation—were structured in the style of a bizarre high school class. In between the practical exercises, Reeve gave PowerPoint presentations on how to hide a survival cache, how to create disguises, how to move undetected through an urban area at night and how to fend off an attack dog.
AS I STOOD panting in the hotel parking lot, I received a text message outlining the day’s premise. My partner for the simulation—an unnervingly charming television producer by the name of Christian Everhard—and I had escaped from the custody of militiamen who had just successfully completed a coup against the government of “Losbekistan.” Americans, we were told, were no longer welcome.
We were to make our way to a cache of disguises that we had previously stashed in the city and work together on tasks that would facilitate our extraction. “Hunters” would be looking for us over a ten-mile swath of L.A.; if someone tapped either of us on the shoulder and said “buffalo,” we’d be taken to a remote location and the whole process would begin again—including the interrogation. Neither of us wanted that.
I was aware that this was little more than an elaborate game, but my survival instinct had apparently missed the memo. We had to evade capture. We had to.
Read the whole thing
Does anybody have any experience with onPoint Tactical?