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DETAILS MAGAZINE

Our Man Goes Behind Enemy Lines and Into a Simulated POW Camp

Copyright - Myatt Murphy

Do a handstand in front of that tree, Little Man!"

Moments later, I'm hanging upside down, arms and legs wrapped around an oak trunk, trembling from fatigue. My captors call it the "dying koala." I remember it as exercise 19. "Fall and you'll do this all goddamn day!" I'm told, but I crash to the ground anyway. "Shall we try again, Little Man?" my guard whispers in a cold, condescending tone. As if I have a choice.

It sounds like a scene from Midnight Express, but it's actually POW Resistance, a course endured by elite servicemen to gauge their resistance to interrogation behind enemy lines. The nightmare is courtesy of Team Delta, a Philadelphia-based group whose cadre of ex-military-intelligence men uses central Georgia to recreate the experience for civilians who enjoy this sort of thing.

A packet of information arrived at my door days before, giving details of a fake mission I'm told never to reveal. Among these instructions is a line that's hard to forget: You will experience physical and psychological pain. (in this program, the Geneva Convention statutes protecting prisoners of war from torture don't exist.) Not long after I arrived in Atlanta, I was captured. Describing too much could ruin it for future participants. However, I can say this: I was hooded and handcuffed. There were times when I couldn't hear myself think over the screaming. My clothes were exchanged for a rain slicker and laceless combat boots - and nothing else.

Shortly after capture, new names were issued to further the humiliation. The guards called me "Little Man," hoping that I was insecure about being 5 foot 6. A striking resemblance to Stallone earned one prisoner "Gay Rambo," a theme that rolled over to another prisoner "Gay Robin Hood." The heaviest of our group was dubbed "Cheeseburger." Why were they here? Gay Robin Hood hoped to understand a close friend, a Vietnam Vet who spent seven years as a POW. Gay Rambo, a photojournalist who'd once escaped a kidnaping attempt, wanted to prepare himself in case it happened again. In fact, Delta's usual customers are judges and college professors - well-educated men looking for answers to questions that only fear can ask.

I gave my captors nicknames as well. I called the brutal one with the Indian accent "Apu." Another instructor, I noticed, ended every other sentence with "exxxcelient." I called him "Mr. Burns." But not to his face.

Soon, the endless cycle of torture, questions, uncomfortable positions, and more questions began. When I wasn't on work detail chopping wood, I was put in a mildewy tent. At one point, a guard tossed In a rotten apple, and I snarfed down the edible parts before realizing that I'd saved nothing for my comrades. "Work together or you will all die," Apu reminded me. I paid for my gluttony during our first water break, when Burns ordered me to drink twice as much as usual. "We have a surprise for you, Little Man," he whispered, and then he pushed me into a box no bigger than the space beneath your kitchen sink.

That's when all the water I'd drunk kicked in.

Locked into a kneeling position, I had to lift my ass every few seconds to relieve the pressure on my bladder. I could have ended the pain by wetting myself, but I refused to let them scare the piss out of me.

About 10 minutes later, the guards told me I could trade places with a fellow prisoner. Work together or you will all die. I figured that every minute I was in the box was one that my larger comrades wouldn't have to spend there, so I stayed put. A half hour later, when I was finally allowed out, I felt like a hero.

My first interrogator greeted me with a flurry of slaps and questions, trying to get me to blurt my secrets. The second preyed on my compassion, torturing Cheeseburger whenever I refused to answer. In between inquisitors, the guards kept me busy with positions like the dying koala, which made the interrogations an appreciated change of pace.

An eternity later (actually about 14 hours), I met a new interrogator. Instead of throwing accusations or slaps, he handed me peanuts - the first mouthful of food I'd seen in ten hours. He pretended to be a peacekeeper, but I was onto him, dodging all requests and questions with bogus answers. It seemed all too easy, which is when I realized that something was horribly wrong.

"Kill him!" he shouted, motioning for a guard. "I have everything I need!"

Turns out he'd tricked me, even before the first question. Again, I wouldn't want to ruin it for future campers, but if only I had looked more closely at my surroundings....

One tug of the hood meant death and the return to reality. "Welcome back, soldier," said Delta's second-in-command, extending his hand. Only now did I understand the reward: Having the nation's best mind manipulators tell you that you've got a huge set of cojones is the ultimate stroke to any man's ego.

I asked for my pants back.

Wonder how long you'd last in the box? Call (877) 55-DELTA or www.teamdelte.net.

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