April 01, 2013

NewsLeek: Blackwater to Integrate Intensive Mindfulness Course into Tactics and Weapons Training

Alex Caring-Lobel

Last week Academi LLC, formerly Blackwater Worldwide, announced the introduction of a mindfulness course module into their universal tactics and weapons basic training course. Founded in 1997, the military contractor has been the largest US private security contractor in the world since the beginning of the Iraq War. The new mindfulness training, they hope, will slow the ever-increasing number of civilian casualties that the company racks up in Iraq and Afghanistan, and prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the company's other operable zones at home and abroad.

The program's four-month-long test run at Blackwater's Virginia headquarters in September of last year met with great success. Mercenaries who participated in the sample course self-reported lower levels of stress, an increase in positive thoughts, and a greater sense of overall well being on practice missions and then later in war zones.

"I was skeptical at first," senior lieutenant Bob Havemeyer told Tricycle over the phone last week. "But when I returned to Iraq for my second tour, I was more relaxed, more mindful behind the wheel of the APC, behind the .50 cal rifle, in the dining hall—really wherever my contract took me."

Several trainees we spoke to seemed unconvinced of the effectiveness of the new program, but for every mercenary that held reservations, there was another who expressed his enthusiasm for the new program. "At first I didn't think that, as a Blackwater sniper, I could participate in mindfulness practice," said novice Louis Haubner of Louisville, Kentucky. "Then I realized that being mindful is already available to us, that we all already have the capacity to be present. Mindfulness doesn't require us to change who we are—that was a real revelation for me."

The mindfulness course, required for all trainees and encouraged for veterans returning for additional training, will be conducted in the afternoons between Urban Anti-Insurgency 101 and Intermediate Explosives. The program is slated to begin in May.

"There's a revolution upon us," said Haubner before he accepted the distinguished marksman prize—the first time a novice has received it. "It's the mindfulness revolution."

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Image: Ahmad al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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Alex Caring-Lobel's picture

The discussion here is completely valid, and important. Just want to remind that this is satire.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Art imitates life, Alex. ;-) And vice-versa.

Alex Caring-Lobel's picture

April Fools anyone?

dawn.heyse's picture

Thanks for the opportunity to have an interesting conversation.

lindamason819's picture

Hmm mindfully killing and how will they be able to block that out

dawn.heyse's picture

Hopefully, in the case of the Marines, mindfulness training will help them in distinguishing situations in which it would be best to *not* use violence.

celticpassage's picture

I don't think this is anything new.

Samurai were extremely disciplined and efficient killers who would strike on command without a moment's hesitation and yet they also pursued calligraphy, painting, flower arrangement, and enlightenment. They saw no contradiction between the enlightened mind and the way of the warrior.

Mindfulness and focus has found a home in martial arts since the beginning.

zbecker's picture

I tend to agree with Dawn. I think everyone can benefit from mindfulness, and if a person is going to be carrying a weapon, I'd rather have a mindful person with a weapon than a mindless one. Where we probably need to expand is into mindfulness training for politicians; that's where wars begin and end.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Adam Lanza, James Holmes and Jared Loughner were quite mindful of what they were doing with their weapons.

dawn.heyse's picture

Is it possible to be mentally ill and mindful? I have a relative who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and narcissistic personality disorder. I don't think meditation would help her to see the world as it really is when she's off her medication...

Dominic Gomez's picture

She may be mindful of her suffering.

dawn.heyse's picture

I'm sure she does. However, she does not understand the cause.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Few of us do. Karma has no beginning and no end.

dawn.heyse's picture

Indeed. But, she does not acknowledge that she has any illness--that's what I meant by saying she does not understand the cause.

Dominic Gomez's picture

I meant the original cause(s) of her present life's predicament.

dawn.heyse's picture

Yes, as you said before, most of us are unaware of that.

I was referring more to the proximate causes of her suffering. For example, some of her relatives want little to do with her because of some of her actions in the past (that may or may not have been related to her illness). This isolation causes her pain. But, because of her illness, she is unable to see that her actions are partly responsible for her pain.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Some of her pain is due her relatives who are not mindful of their lack of compassion for her.

dawn.heyse's picture

Thank you for this discussion, by the way. This is a subject I have not considered much since taking up Buddhist practice, and it is one I should explore.

dawn.heyse's picture

Some, but not all.

Dominic Gomez's picture

The Law permeates all phenomena. The relatives are as much part of her life as she theirs.

Alex Caring-Lobel's picture

I have little doubt that Breivik could have killed so effectively without his rigorous meditation training.

dawn.heyse's picture

I disagree that the Marines' use of mindfulness training is a misappropriation--I believe it is a great beginning that may result in changing the lives of many young men and women for the better.

jboureston's picture

I try to maintain an open mind and open heart. I believe that,if anyone incorporates a mindfulness practice into their life, then they will benefit from it. So I appreciate even the idea of warriors learning a mindfulness practice, and I can leave it there, without judgement.

blessings to all

Jack

Dominic Gomez's picture

Ideally mindfulness awakens the practitioner to the foolishness of war.

aewhitehouse's picture

Yikes!

rpurser's picture

The sad part of this April Fools story is that it is not a joke. The US Marines has misappropriated "mindfulness" training for their counter-insurgency forces.