MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
Shoot or don’t shoot? That was the question station law enforcement personnel faced during a series of exercises aimed to test their skill and judgement in close-quarters shootouts here June 2, 2009.
Approximately 90 military and civilian policemen and security augments participated in the exercises, which included school shooting and hostage scenarios in a special training house here.
The participants used nonlethal rounds for their M-9 pistols to increase the realism of the training. The rounds are filled with colored soap, which allowed the instructors to identify friendly fire, whether a threat was neutralized and how many times each participant was shot.
“It was meant to enhance their tactics, officer survival and ability to go to and neutralize a given threat,” said Tony Mendivil, provost marshal’s office lead instructor for the exercises.
The majority of the officers had very limited experience in these kinds of situations beforehand, said Mendivil.
Many of them have never been shot back at in their regular training.
“We’ve never done force-on-force training here before,” said Terry Matzner, PMO instructor.
Learning to do something in a controlled setting is different than being able to do it while under fire, said Matzner.
“It’s been shown that, in high-stress situations, officers tend to go back to their training,” said Matzner. “So we’re trying to change the training concept to more of a tactical mindset.”
For example, on the basic pistol range, Marines and civilian police here learn to catch their magazines when they reload, said Mendivil. In real-life shootouts, trying to catch a magazine and put it away causes too much delay.
“It wasn’t like constantly aiming and shooting at a target,” said Lance Cpl. Greg Shoup, military policeman. “We’ve got to legitimately train with our weapons, get the kinks and the shakes out and get used to using them.”
“Even the ones that made a lot of mistakes are going to know what their mistakes are now,” said Matzner. “In all reality, if something were to happen today, they would know what to do.”
For the first part of training, the MPs were required to fire at an aggressor and reload from behind cover while being shot at. They had to do this at three different barricades from the prone, kneeling and standing positions. Afterward, they practiced room clearing techniques in teams.
In the final stage, to further simulate the reality of the situations, policemen who had controversial shootings during the training were questioned June 9 about their decisions and actions by a Naval Criminal Investigative Service officer, as they would during formal investigations.
If an MP shoots a hostage, fellow MP or an offender who surrendered, he is asked to justify the action and explain his reasoning. This final part of the training evolution was designed to show the policemen what happens after an officer-involved shooting and the possible consequences of their actions.
PMO is able to arrange training events like this now that its Marine Corps civilian police academy has been assimilated into the regionalized academy at the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, Calif., freeing up time and resources for its instructors.
PMO plans to continue training its policemen in a variety of exercises and scenarios using nonlethal ammunition.