CAMP SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. –
Twenty-two Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Security Forces Squadron recently conducted a week of training here focused on supporting law enforcement.
“We worked on domestic operations, which included riot control, peaceful protestors and how to deal with them; how to react when a riot breaks out; the techniques and tactics to control rioters; and how to secure spaces and clear people off areas that we need to,” said Nelson, unit training manager for the 123rd SFS.
Airmen also were able to conduct simulated traffic stops and employ non-lethal bullets during the training, which took place May 16 to 22.
“Traffic stops are some of the most dangerous interactions that law enforcement officers can have,” Nelson said. “Using the munitions and police vehicles really enhances the training value there, because the officers realize that they can be shot at any time. They have to approach things much more tactically.”
Tech. Sgt. Cameron Blankenship, a lead instructor with the 123rd SFS training office who also works in civilian law enforcement, explained that real-world incidents helped him design training for the Airmen. Blankenship incorporated multiple scenarios he has encountered in real life at his civilian job.
“I've probably made thousands of traffic stops over the past couple years,” he said. “I've done a lot of things wrong, I've done a lot of things right. I'm trying to help a lot of the newer generation learn from some of my mistakes that I've made in real life and really try to focus on the safety aspects of traffic stops.
“Just talking them through their mistakes, talking through my mistakes and then formulating a good plan to safely navigate those kinds of situations was really beneficial to not only myself — to just get those good reps in, in a controlled environment — but for them as well.”
The squadron also employed a warehouse setup for troops to practice room-clearing techniques and neutralize active shooters.
“We focused a lot on ‘shoot, move, communicate’ — how to engage as a fire team, clear a building out, move as a team to destroy enemy targets while there are potential innocent bystanders in the way,” Blankenship said.
“An active shooter is probably our biggest threat at home station. Unfortunately, we live in a world where our threat more than likely is not going be terrorist — it's going to be one of our own. I think this has really set good foundational skills for everybody to go into one of these situations.”
Squadron members also participated in combative training.
“We worked on hand-to-hand skills because you never know when you might be taken to the ground and presented with an attacker who's trying to smash your face in and take your weapons,” Nicholson said. “The ‘fight house’ there offered us a unique opportunity to work on those skills.
“The ‘shoot, move, communicate’ drill has to be one of the biggest successes. I saw the troops become way more proficient from day one to day three on that training block.”
Some Airmen in the squadron have attended specialized tactical training taught by former special forces operators, and they brought that experience with them to Camp San Luis Obispo.
“They've taught our guys how to do it, and they're continuing their training. And then they're passing that knowledge down to our younger Airmen,” Nicholson said. “Because of the knowledge base that was shared with the Airmen there, I could definitely see the improvements through the team as they continued to practice and hone their skills.
“There's nothing quite like the potential for being shot with simulated munitions. It raises adrenaline. And when you go through an adrenaline-inducing situation with other people, it builds up a camaraderie and a team spirit that other things can't deliver the same way.”
Airman 1st Class Kristina Noe agreed.
“They made us connect as a group,” Noe said. “That kind of teamwork really helps with any job.”