ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Dr. Paul Needham, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, spoke to approximately 350 Soldiers and civilians about resiliency through faith, as he recounted his ordeal as a captive during the Iranian hostage crisis, at Heritage Hall, here, Oct. 31.

Needham said he learned the true meaning of patience and gathered a deep understanding of the human spirit's resiliency after what was supposed to be a temporary assignment in Iran turned into a prolonged imprisonment.

The ordeal started on a November morning in 1979 when a crowd of almost 500 angry, anti-American protesters gathered outside of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran screaming and calling for the "death of America."

Needham, then a 28-year-old captain, was one of more than 60 Americans taken hostage for 444 days while Iranian militants -- mostly students -- took the embassy.

"Resilience comes in four components" he said -- physical, mental, emotional and last, but not least, spiritual. Needham talked about how, even when you feel like everything is taken away from you in the darkest time of your life, spirituality is the only thing that can't be taken away.

Needham discussed how the repressive conditions of their imprisonment prompted some captives to attempt escape and suicide.

"A miscalculation could have resulted in someone's death," he said.

Needham described how both mental and physical maltreatment awakened him to the limits of human endurance.

He said human resilience can be strong even in the face of prolonged boredom, repetitiveness, deprivation of food and random acts of terror.


The ordeal was a "rollercoaster of emotions through real depressive moments," he said, "each person deals with mental trauma in different ways."

"How did I make through there?" Needham asked. "With my faith in God, my family, and faith in this country.

"Without that solid foundation, I would have not survived," he said.

Following his 23 years of military service, Needham taught courses in military strategy, logistics, supply chain management, war gaming and transportation economics at Dwight D. Eisenhower School of National Security and Resource Strategy for over 18 years. He retired as an instructor in 2015.

Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, commander, Army Sustainment Command, hosted the resiliency presentation.

In his closing remarks, Gamble thanked Needham for his service and presented him with a plaque as a symbol of respect and gratitude,

"He's absolutely one of my favorite people in the world," Gamble said. "Not because of what he has been through, but because of who he is, how he touches people every day with his positive influence.

"He's an American hero."