Well, I had been transferred from my comfortoable office at Kings Bay, GA to our Operational Deployment Office (Contingency Response Field Office) in Brunswick GA. Now I needed to be trained for the mission…
So what kind of training do you get to attend if you’re headed to a war zone? Well, for us it’s called HROTP…or High Risk Operations Training Program. When I went through in June of 2006, the course was 4 weeks long—which doesn’t sound like much, but you’re pretty much dead at the end of it. It has since been increased to 6 weeks, but I think the only thing they have really done is add in some down time (which is probably a good thing). While I was still assigned at our Deployment Field Office, I served as a Firearms/Tactics instructor for no fewer than 15 HROTP iterations. It’s hard work for students and instructors. These were no shorted than 12 hour days….
Quick Caveat: In some of th pictures, I’m wearing running shoes….yes I should have been wearing boots–but I had to wait until my size came in–the curse of having a common size foot (10.5) Just wanted to get that out of the way for peanut gallery, because, while I realize some of you wouldn’t notice, I’m sure SOME of you would point it out given half a chance (Barry/Doc). Again, I’m going to speak to my class only….some of the training has evaluated and improved over the years (this is a good thing) as guys like me came back and pointed stuff out….Prior to December 2005, we only deployed one or two guys at a time and had no real formalized training course, which all of us realized was not the best way to do business. My office also became the Agency SWAT/Tactical Team so we would get more training later when this decision was made. But for now, this was it…and it was (and still is) consider our toughest, most intense training course.
????If, for some unknown reason, you don’t get outrageously bored, you’ll also notice that some of my equipment will evolve (particularly my vest)…this is also a good thing. The vest I wore in training and for part of my 2006 deployment, was a standard “over the head” style Bullet Resistant Vest with two ceramic plates (front and back) rated to protect me from 7.62 (AK 47 caliber) Armor Piercing rifle founds. That vest is covered by a Molle Load Bearing Vest that held magazine pouches for rifle and pistol. We did evolve some, and as I trained and deployed I moved stuff around. We also got new vests, but more on that later. As a general rule, we trained with a lesser load than we actually carried, but the gear averaged anywhere from 50 to 60 pounds of extra weight….Yeah, that’s heavy.
My class was held in June 2006 at the Federal Law Enforcment Training Center (FLETC–my home office for the next 4.5 years)…for you guys who drive to Disney via I 95, you pass it at Exit 38 in Brunswick, GA (look for the big sign at Exit 38). And it goes without saying—it was hot. Averaged right about 90 with 100% humidity.
At the time (this has since changed) we started with two weeks of firearms, a week of tactics, and a week of driving ended with final drills to put it all together. In the middle we all became CPR certified (again) and were taught basic combat first aid/treatment/triage. It is all crawl/walk/run, because believe it or not, a lot of Law Enforcement types aren’t that proficient with firearms–yeah, scary I know, but it is what it is. Even then, most Law Enforcement firearms training is static in nature (Stand here, shoot target) due to it mostly being designed for a technical qualification, and not an actual dynamic situation. Sure, I’d been on a SWAT team, but my training had been long ago (early 90s) and these are perishable skills–it’s not bicycle riding by any stretch. So while I wasn’t exactly “crawling”, I wasn’t running 400M Hurdles either. A lot of my fellow Agents struggled…but in the end, all of us got through.
Now for the pictures and some explanation….I’ll point me out…but if you see a hat related to Bass Fishing, that would be me…LOL
Getting instruction from our Agency Lead Firearms instructor (in the gray shirt….anyone not in a beige shirt is an instructor)..I’m the guy on the far right in the beige hat
One on one instruction….again on the right in the beige hat.
On th line….now, this range looks like it’s indoor—it’s not, it’s outdoor…
Adjusting a sling…
Learning the M4 Rifle…we would be issued Mark 18’s for my time at this Field Office. The MK18 is the same rifle, but with a 10.5 inch, vice 14.5 inch barrel. Pictures later. By the way, you learn real quick to wear elbow pads. In this exercise, we’re unloaded and working on trigger manipulation, but once the lead started flying, that ground got real painful, real quick like.
After basic range exercises, we moved into things like shooting on the move, utilizing cover/concealment etc. etc…..and we trained in shooting out of vehicles..
This is a suburban, and I love this pic….you can see the ejected brass flying off to the right…
So after two weeks hard at it…you look kinda like this (by the way, I’m about 20 pounds lighter than this now)
So now we move into tactics training. For this type of training we use a lot of Non-Lethal training rounds (Simunitions)…essentially you use a real gun that shoots a marking paint bullet (and it stings). Instructors during the “source ambush”…which you’ll see here in a minute…use paintball guns to “send us a message” (painfully–luckily for me, I did not get shot–and I have been an instructor since on multiple occasions, and I tend to go a little “soft” on guys who are trying—goof offs or people not cutting it get lit up)…Blue barelled weapons are Non Lethal…
So the story behind this is, we go to meet a source (much of what we do) and get ambushed by insurgents….it suuuuuuuuuucks…
For the record, I’m the guy in the Oakley Sunglasses in a beige ball cap with blue bill..I also have my boots now–had to buy them myself.
So we get briefed on our mission…
And then we enter the scenario…..and we get “new information”….don’t know it at the time, but our day just got worse…
Our “new” information…I’m the guy closest to the camera…note the protective gear.
Revising the (already bad, but no one would listen..lol) plan…I’m on the far right now
On the move…I’m in the center, to the left of the instructor (see if you can find him…LOL)
Grabbing the source…I’m the guy on the right..
Taking fire…getting out of dodge…I was responsible to protect the source, so I’m not shooting…See if you can tell which direction the fire is coming from!! I’m on the source’s (red suit) left side.
We did a few other drills, but these are the only pictures I have….while the instructors intentionally do you a little “dirty”, I learned a lot.
Now we had to learn to move as a team…formations, etc. etc….(which would’ve been nice to learn BEFORE the source meet–but hey, they were working on it)…We utilized FLETC training “raid” houses for this….Notice that only a few of us are in full “Hero” Gear (tactical vests)…those of us at CRFO had to wear them, those just doing the training for a one time deployment did not.
Instruction and picking ticks….I’m the guy on the table pulling off a tick…FLETC is ground zero for ticks in South Georgia.
Escorting out…I’m front Left….as I look at this now, my technique and focus of attention are TERRIBLE…I need to be paying attention to my Area of Responsibility (which is front and right of the formation)…I’m looking down and to the left…Bad bad bad…but no longer an issue..
Again…front right of the formation…and not paying attention to what I should be focusing on….oh well, that’s why they call it training.
Someone has to run in the middle of the road and risk becoming a hood ornament…may as well be me…
From these exercises we moved to driving….we drove the FLETC Tahoes a lot (since we used Suburbans in Theater), trained in our junker alley Maze getting smoked out and shot at, and finally trained on our track where they simulated IED disabling etc. etc….These are pretty much the only pictures I have, but you might get the idea.
Junker alley…junk cars used to create a maze so you can destroy your car and the junkers….LOL
AMBUSH!!! We’re in the Old Police Caprices (I had one as a police car in 1994) with welded ram bumpers (to somewhat protect that tank)…we would get disabled, smoked, then ambused…it’s loud, confusing…and fun.
After we get out of the vehicle…which is the point…I’m the last guy on the right with a helmet…laughing…the other guy has on a shower cap because you have to wear one under the helmets…Government rules…OSHA and all that.
Final Debrief…I’m the guy standing on the right arm of the dude in the helmet…
Final picture from class…don’t ask how I ended up front behind the class counselor…I have no idea, and can’t remember…
So that was training….I had no idea I didn’t know what I didn’t know…LOL
Next Stop….Kuwait to Camp Fallujah, Iraq..(IZ)