(Credits: The target pictured with this post is a product of Alco Targets)
A few years back, Uncle Sam sent me to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynnco, Georgia. FLETC, (or Club Fed...as 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, ...you 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.
BOOM, BOOM, BOOM !
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.