News | July 6, 2016

Susquehanna installation hosts former hostage Matt Schrier

By DLA Distribution Public Affairs DLA Distribution Public Affairs

Defense Distribution Center Susquehanna recently hosted photographer and former Syrian hostage Matt Schrier for the quarterly Force Protection Lecture Series, which highlighted Schrier’s strategies to survive and detailed how he was able to escape the situation and return to the United States.

Schrier traveled to Syria with the help of the Free Syrian Army to photograph parts of the war zone.  In December 2012, he was captured by Jabhat al-Nusra while traveling on the road between Aleppo and the Turkish border.  Schrier was among a number of kidnapped American journalists held by the Syrian-based terrorists, and was accused of being a C.I.A. agent.

He was held in a series of rebel-controlled prisons in Aleppo.  “I was able to gather intelligence using my good memory,” said Schrier.  He collected as much information as he could while held within the prisons – things like the manufacturer and serial numbers on items inside his cell, landmarks that could identify his location, and items that could be used to help him escape.  All of this information later helped the FBI determine where Schrier was held and who his captors were.

As part of his strategy to survive, Schrier concealed his Jewish roots and used his humor to win over his captors.  He was able to use these strategies to receive better treatment within the facilities, and build a level of trust with the terrorists.  Eventually, Schrier convinced his captors that he had “converted” to Islam, garnering further trust with the group.

In July 2013, after 11-months of being held, Schrier was able to unhinge a tiny window in his cell by removing the mesh and welding which was damaged and only partially repaired.  He climbed from the cell, and escaped into the streets of Aleppo until he found other rebels.

The men he found in the streets protected him and drove him to the Turkish border, where he crossed out of Syria.  After entering Turkey, he was quickly retrieved by American diplomats and returned to the United States.

Schrier’s story of abduction, torture, and ultimately, survival was a reminder to the audience to be vigilant and resilient when on travel, and to always be aware of their surroundings.