BOISE, Idaho (BP)–A sharp increase in crimes against Americans and other Westerners traveling abroad has prompted David Dose, a personal security specialist, to produce a DVD-based curriculum on avoiding and otherwise dealing with such issues as petty theft to long-term detention in foreign countries.
Dose, through Fort Sherman Academy in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, provides hostage survival and antiterrorism training for civilian and faith-based audiences. He has trained more than 12,000 people representing nearly 50 government, commercial and church organizations and has assisted in the recovery of persons both detained and kidnapped outside the United States.
The State Department website evidences the need for Dose’s training, noting that Americans traveling overseas must maintain a high level of vigilance because of continued threats of violence against U.S. citizens abroad. “These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings,” the website states.
Despite increased security risks, Christian organizations show a consistent annual increase of short-term volunteers traveling abroad. From 2005 to ’06, for example, the number of volunteers traveling abroad increased 66 percent. Unfortunately, a 300 percent increase in the number of incidents was reported in same time period, 110 of which were either criminal or political in nature, and several of which posed serious threats to individuals’ safety.
Dose has similar statistics confirming such attacks are on the rise. After training thousands of people in the first three years after Fort Sherman Academy opened in 2003, he said only one graduate had called to report a tough situation in which the training proved indispensible. But from 2006-08, nearly 70 academy graduates had reported such cases.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of kidnappings, illegal detentions, carjackings, home invasions and other violent crimes against people traveling internationally,” Dose said.
“These acts underscore the growing danger and the call for security training to address these specific issues. And that means we must find innovative ways to reasonably continue going where we are called, and being better prepared to travel and respond to challenges appropriately.”
Dose believes his primary task is to prepare groups to do what God has called them to do overseas in a safe and proactive manner. He added that the training also is invaluable for any traveler leaving the U.S. for any span of time.
“This training we offer is faith-based,” Dose said. “As such, we don’t study international travel risks to come up with excuses for not going to where God has called us. We study the risks to develop strategies that enable us to keep going and to do the things we need to do. We talk in terms of human strategies, but [because] this is a faith-based course, we acknowledge that God is in charge of what we do.
“People equipped to make good choices do come out of these situations with less harm and damage,” Dose said. “God is in charge, but we are called to be wise and shrewd in doing our part.”
Sam Porter, partnership specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said, “The post-9/11 world in which we live requires church leaders to be aware of their surroundings and environment more than any other time in history.”
Porter said he plans to ask every BGCO church planning an international volunteer trip “to prayerfully consider [Dose’s training] a major part of orientation for every team member.”
Having led more than 60 international trips as a pastor and a partnership specialist for the Oklahoma convention, Porter said Dose’s training “would have been most helpful prior to many of them.”
Such was the case with one Fort Sherman Academy graduate who, when he took the training, thought he’d never have to use it. A week later, he and his family were face-down on a hotel room floor in Africa with guns pointed at their heads. He later said that the training was a major factor in helping him first to remain calm and then to employ the strategies he learned to help his family survive the ordeal.
Titled “Safe Travel Solutions,” the two-DVD set is divided into six sessions hosted by Dose. Also included is an easy-to-use leader guide. Topics covered in the training include:
— A faith-based perspective.
— Tips for safe travel.
— Minimizing personal harm to participants and recipients of ministry.
— Surviving criminal acts.
— Avoiding/surviving hostage situations.
— Maximizing personal survival and minimizing exploitation.
— Creating a sense of control in a chaotic situation.
— Enabling hostages to return earlier, healthier and with peace and honor intact.
— Responses to detention by officials.
“I knew how I would respond if a foreign official were to question me about my purposes in the country,” one student said. “I knew how to react and who to call. The training gives such a sense of peace just to know what you would do if something were to happen.”
“Increasing your personal security knowledge will instill confidence while you travel amid the risks and the threats that are out there, and help you to feel empowered to do what the Lord has called you to do,” Dose said. “However, the vast majority of all short-term volunteer teams will never experience a major security crisis. But unfortunately, these situations are occurring more often. That’s why we believe utilizing our training is as much a judicious precaution as buying insurance — not to plan for the accident, but rather to be prepared if and when it happens.”
Norm Miller is a freelance writer in Richmond, Va. For more information, contact [email protected], visit www.safetravelsolutions.org or call 1-866-295.5505.