April 01, 2013
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."
Image: Ahmad al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images