People who follow the Duggars for whatever reasons have most likely seen the title ‘ALERT Academy’ tossed around at least a few times. It’s been referred to as ‘Gothard’s Boy Scouts’ more often than not, and appears to be the go-to for a few of the male Duggars upon reaching late adolescence. Most recently, Jeremiah Duggar ‘graduated’ from the program in Texas this past spring. Josiah and Joseph Duggar are also alums, but these two boys seem to be the only ones thus far.
As is with most of the steaming piles of bullshit the Duggars promote, I didn’t give ALERT much of a look at first. So its a boot camp for hypocritical Evangelical families who claim to love America but won’t send their kids into the real military. Big deal, right? Upon doing some research, however, some of the testimonies I found from ALERT alumni have not been so worthy of endorsement:
The main point [ALERT] tried to drive home to their ‘trainees’ (typically 16-18 years old) was that no matter what adversity or difficulty you are facing, either physical, mental, or spiritual, all you need to do is cry out to God and he will get you through it. The way they taught us to do this with the physical aspect was by hiking with 60-80 pound back packs at nothing short of a speed-walk pace which often turned into a jog for miles on end without ever disclosing how far or long we were going.
Again, I won’t go into too many details but the ‘physical training’ done at ALERT made Basic Combat Training feel like a summer camp when I joined the Army years later. During this abusive level of physical training I ended up spraining my back which caused horrible pain during these hikes, but as I was told, “just ask God to make the pain go away and you will make it through.” Needless to say this was not a satisfactory answer to me and I ‘developed an attitude’ according to the leadership there. I eventually was kicked out with them citing a ‘prideful spirit’ as the root cause of my problems.
It kind of reminded me of a memoir I read a few years ago, Jesus Land, by Julia Scheeres. Julia grew up with several African American adopted siblings in a hardcore Christian family. Eventually, her beloved brother got into trouble and was shipped down to a place in the Caribbean called Escuela Caribe. After following him there, Julia discovered that this place, where Evangelical families sent their ‘problem children,’ drew from outright abusive tactics to reform their charges, from hard labor to starvation, to strict caste systems that granted privileges as slight as being able to speak without being spoken to and having a guard more than five feet away from your personal bubble, to beatings and Mao Zedong-style criticism sessions. The island fortress was up and running until 2002, and a few years ago, a chilling documentary was made by survivors.
The ‘Troubled Teen Industry’ is one of the scariest, most abusive, yet loophole-exploiting systems in the country…and it’s all legal. Some ‘camps’ are faith-fueled, like Escuela Caribe, and some are reportedly secular. Testimonies from survivors report things as extreme as being kidnapped by parent-paid thugs and arrested en route, to being forced to dig holes and sleep in the middle of the desert. Running away is virtually impossible, and the rare teen who does make a successful break has a whole world of hurt to look forward to upon returning to reality. While enrollment in ALERT seems to be 100% voluntary (as far as we know), the hard labor and super secretive parallels are kind of hard to ignore.
This entire piece is simple speculation, of course, and I will admit that now. I have never been near an ALERT camp, or even an IBLP establishment. For all I know, ALERT is completely up front and honest about being just Boy Scouts for Quiverfulls.
If it’s such a great program, why did only a few of the Duggar boys go?
If it’s ‘Boy Scouts,’ why is it a prolonged sleep-away program?
Why do they have to shave their heads to enroll?
Why are they so isolated from everywhere else?
Why is there so much hard labor involved?
Why does the program last so long (typically 13-15 weeks, or about four months)?
Why is medical aid discouraged when someone is injured?
Why is outside contact virtually forbidden?
In the opinion of this author, if you needed to ask yourself more than three of these questions about a place or program that caters to ‘troubled teens,’ you need to have an ALERT of your own go off in your head.
If your first rebuttal point is: “Well, the testimony you quoted was only one person’s. We would have had more survivors come forward with the inner-workings of the place if it was so abusive, right?” Well, no, not exactly…
The Troubled Teen Industry (TTI) is not a new concept. It’s been around since World War 2 in some capacity. Some of the testimonies available come from people who are well into middle age (Jesus Land took place in the early 1980s as an example). Yet, most of the testimonies themselves are new. Why?
Because, according to those sources, many of these establishments are expert liars, and know how to blackmail victims into lying for them, or how to convince the parents of the victims that their children are liars when they try to ask for help. The entire philosophy of the TTI is that a troubled teen is inherently bad, will resort to anything to continue their ‘depraved’ way of life, and that even if you’ve known the kid your entire life, he is a smarmy, falsehood-dealing son of a bitch and the industry knows him better than you. Naturally, if someone, even one who is out of the system, begins to cry ‘abuse,’ bad things can happen, up to and including total brainwashing. It’s a system that programs your own family to be against you and afraid of you. Unless you are among the strongest of the strong and can make it totally on your own as a runaway 17-year-old, you’re going to be screwed no matter where you turn.
Add this to the fact that the IBLP establishment are also a group of expert liars, which, through countless unveiled sex and abuse scandals that go right up to the head honcho, and what do you get *besides a double-wrapped undercover operation that is about as impenetrable as Alcatraz if the walls were made of adamantium)?
You get a hell of a lot of unanswered questions.
Again, this could all just be a moderately-sensible conspiracy theory in the end…but then again, Josh’s incestuous activities were rumors on the Free Jinger boards for years before they came to light as terribly true. Perhaps ALERT, like every facility that takes in teens and forces hard labor on them, should be watched a little more closely.