Among the 11,500 US soldiers participating in this year’s Cobra Gold War Games were three of the top-ranked waterboarders in the world. Adm Jack Francone, Sgt Brian Naismith and Private Kirstie Jacobs were all ranked in the top five by Waterboarding magazine at the start of this year, and they easily saw off the less experienced Japanese, Korean and Thai participants.
In the event, soldiers are given ten minutes to simulate the drowning of a suspect. Judged like figure skating, each soldier is given marks for technical mastery of the skill and is also judged on his overall artistry.
“Really what differentiates one waterboarder from another are the flourishes – trash talk, a knee on the neck, a fist in the mouth – that a particular soldier adds when executing his routine,” explained staff sergeant Hank Greeley.
The Thai troops put in a good showing however and have shown remarkable improvement in the event over the past few years, progress some analysts attribute to hands-on lessons received at a “secret training facility” the Thais deny the existence of.