Sunday, July 09, 2006

Killing Mr. Umbrella Man

(Credits: The target pictured with this post is a product of Alco Targets)
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A few years back, Uncle Sam sent me to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynnco, Georgia. FLETC, (or Club we called it) was an exNavy base that had been converted into the training center for all Federal law enforcement except the FBI.
Marshals, Customs, DEA, Border Patrol, Fish and Wildlife, Park Rangers, name it, they were there.

The food was good and the training was excellent. There was plenty of classroom time, but the main strength of FLETC was the high quality simulations and real world scenarios that you were put through.

The old navy housing area had been turned into a training village for exercises such as serving warrants, car stops, etc. Actors from the surrounding community were paid to "flesh out" these scenarios. They were very good. The role players did not follow a rigid script, but instead were trained to react to the FLETC trainee's actions so the scenarios were fluid and very realistic. A careless mistake by a trainee would be seized upon and the situation could escalate out of control with "dead" trainees. Most of us looked forward to these practical exercises with nervous anticipation.

One that sticks in my mind, even though it did not involve any live role playing actors, was a combat shotgun course. Picture this...

We trainees are gathered at the shotgun firing range on a bright sunny morning, empty 12 gauge shotguns slung on our shoulders. We're pumped up, eager, and full of ourselves. There's lots of joking and good natured teasing going on while we wait for the instructor to begin. In front of us at about 50 feet is a tactical target something like the one pictured above.These are also called decision making targets as they come with overlays of other weapons or nonlethal items that can be placed in the target guy's hands. The target that morning was a life-sized picture of a man holding a shotgun across his chest, Mr. Shotgun Man.

On the range table at the firing line is a 12 guage police shotgun.
The RO (range officer) picks it up and speaks, " You will run to the concrete block building down there...." he points to a distant 3 story block tower, "where you will enter and clear the building using the cover and concealment techniques that you have learned. You will do this with the empty, safed shotguns that you carry. That is a safety measure since you will be running at full speed with the weapon."

He paused for questions.

"After clearing each room in the building, you will be stopped by another range officer and held there until the firing range has been cleared by the person in front of you. When told to go, you will run back to this point, combat reload three rounds into the weapon and deal with the target. Any questions?"

We are all thinking..."This is going to be a piece of cake".

We walked to a starting area out of sight of the actual shooting range and then one by one, we ran to the block tower and entered it. Range officers were inside the tower grading you as you puffed up the stairs, cleared rooms, and finally exited to be met by one more RO who stopped you until the distant shotgun firing range was cleared.
We could not see the person at the range, but we could hear the BOOM, BOOM, BOOM sound of them dealing with the target.

I cleared the building and then it was my turn for the final leg of the exercise. The RO said, "GO!" and off I went. I ran to the firing line table, covered the target with the shotgun while combat reloading three rounds.

Target guy's head and chest was now poka dotted with holes.

Only, it wasn't the same target...not exactly.

Everything was the same, except that instead of a shotgun, the target guy was holding an umbrella across his chest...a chest that was now riddled with dozens of holes.

Everyone of us had faced Umbrella Man, not the Shotgun Man we anticipated.

Everyone of us "killed" him.

It was a very quiet, somber group that walked off that range.


Hurricane Teen said...

Aww poor Mr. Umbrella Man. But he shouldn't have been standing on the firing range in the first place :-D. I'll be sure to stay away from you if I were to ever see you with a gun. JK. How did your clamming go yesterday?

Laura said...

Whoa. Sounds like they really do provide for all scenarios! I can imagine just how quiet you all were at the time.

Meanwhile, uh...I think i'll follow hurricane teen's advice and stay far away if I ever see you with a gun...

Hal at Ranch Ramblins said...

WOW! That story raised the hair on the back of my neck. It really drives home the point that when we are confronted by law-enforcement, their perspective and mindset might be (understandably) different than our own. It's a great cautionary tale to think about.

swamp4me said...

For us it was a handgun replaced by a badge in an ID holder. Our "bad guy" was one of us.
Makes you stop and think -- you are, afterall, ultimately responsible for the terminal resting point of your round...

Mrs. S said...

This reminds me of the scene in MIB where Will Smith is the only one to shoot the little girl with the books rather than the "snarling monsters" all around him. Strangely, ever since that movie, I've been careful to be certain of what I see before reacting to it... even though I've never been in public (or even a simulated public) with a weapon.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

He had it coming. Nobody carries an umbrella anymore. Weasel....

Deb said...

That is something to think about, as I am scheduled to take handgun training in a couple of weeks. Yup, gonna keep some protection on the place. I wonder how much of that deals with evaluation of the situation, including the unexpected...and with the neighbors I have here, an Umbrella Man would not be totally out of the question!

roger said...

sounds to me as though the training is good. i certainly don't want lawmen (lawpersons?) shooting umbrella man, nor do i want you or any other officer shot by gun man. while i admire and respect those who enforce laws, a tough job i would never want, i'll admit i'm glad that you have retired from that to teaching. i wonder if you ever reflect on how that part of your life adds or abets your abilities (or not) as a teacher.


rick said...

Umbrellas can be very dangerous I learned that watching Batman.My first thought was what our troops have to deal with everyday in Iraq,react to a real world situation within a fraction of a second.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Poor Umbrella Man...but I can see how hyped up law enforcement guys could make that mistake, since you only have an instant to react.

I bet the next time you ran that course, they changed the props for each of you.

Hick said...

I never liked carrying an umbrella anyway.

I agree with what Rick said about our troops. Yipes.

robin andrea said...

Wow. That was the point of the training. The split-second decision. Of course you go into the building looking for gun man. You wouldn't go looking for umbrella man, but umbrella man is who actually might be there in your line of fire. Excellent training. A great way to teach that very important lesson.

Floridacracker said...

Point of clarification...this was early in the 9 week course and it was specifically designed to shock us, lower the gungho'ness level, and illusrate the importance of SEEING and not just looking.
...It worked.

...depends on the situation might be glad I was near.

I am completely safe. In fact, I am MR. SAFETY with firearms.
...really hate umbrellas tho ;)

We had to pass through "Judgement Pistol Shooting" where you had to make those split second "shoot/don't shoot" decisions. Graded on judgement and was a weed out test. You were done if you could not pass all of it.
...I passed by the way.

I was thinking of you when I wrote this. I thought you could relate.

Mrs. S,
Will had such cool shiny guns in that movie...

Exactly...why do they fear the rain anyway??

I am so in to personal responsibility that I can not imagine me without firearms AND less lethal methods of personal defense. My county is the size of Rhode Island...we might have 5 deputies on patrol at any given moment...response time for 911 averages 20 minutes here. 'Nuff said.
Good luck with your training. Free expert advice: Sight picture and squeeze, don't jerk the trigger.

it is a tough job and i always remember that when dealing with some young officer.
that previous career helps me every day in teaching. i think all teachers should do something else before beginning a teaching career.

Yeah Batman...the original series of course! BIFF! BAM!
I guess you know Kevin's going to the Mideast.

It was a classic example of the old saying about ASSUMING anything.

You know it. Tough role...and they're mostly under 25.

One of those lessons that will stick with you forever...
like i before e except after c :)

Wayne said...

Heh - Men in Black. It was the little girl that was the danger!

Floridacracker said...

I liked the wormy guys.