Realistic Training in the Kingdom

  • Published
  • By Capt. Benjamin Joelson
  • 879th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron

Eskan Village is a housing community home to the United States military training mission to Saudi Arabia, a vital part of the strategic relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  The 379 Air Expeditionary Wing’s only geographically separated unit, the 879th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, proudly proclaims that the base they protect is the “hardest target in the kingdom!”  Still, the defenders of the 879 ESFS are faced with a challenge common among Security Forces units—celebrating non-incidents as victories while staying battle ready at all times.  Deterrence and readiness are difficult metrics to measure, but the consequences of complacency in their mission could be devastating.  So, defenders train continuously to keep their perishable combat skillset sharp.  “We have to ensure that each SF member is ready to do their job should the time come,” said Check Six NCOIC Tech. Sgt. Gabe Rodriguez.

Check Six is an AFCENT initiative to ensure that deployed units are preparing for potential active shooter incidents.  Tech. Sgt. Rodriguez along with Staff Sgt. Agustin Moran has developed a “simunition” based Check Six training regimen, the first of its kind in the AFCENT AOR and improvements in proficiency are already being noted.   The 879 ESFS has taken the program to new heights by introducing realistic training scenarios for first responders.  During an active shooter situation, neutralizing the threat as quickly as possible is the goal.  However, “troops won’t rise to the occasion; they’ll fall to the level of training they have received” said Staff Sgt. Moran.  That means it’s as important as ever to constantly improve the quality of that training. 

            Part of raising the bar means showing SF members how they will react under fire. “The more realistic the training, the better. This is one of the major reasons why reality-based training with simunition weapons and properly scripted scenarios is so valuable.  “By allowing our members to execute the right tactics in a highly realistic training environment, it hardwires them to react properly instead of following dangerous subconscious impulses,” said Tech. Sgt. Rodriguez.  Simunition rounds are training aids that convert the M4 and M9 into exercise weapons that fire dye-marker rounds at 475 feet per second.  “You know when you’ve been hit, and that means you have to rely on your training instead of just rushing into a room” said Staff Sgt. Moran.

The two NCOs, each with impressive resumes of their own (Tech. Sgt. Rodriguez is a graduate of the Army’s Ranger, Airborne and Sniper schools and Staff. Sgt. Moran is a civilian law enforcement officer on his off-duty time), have converted an old living quarters into a shoot house, and developed a rigorous day-long curriculum where Security Forces members and augmentees can hone their skills and prepare for the worst.  Part of the training includes “shoot don’t shoot scenarios” where trainees learn to differentiate between victims and assailants and make quick life and death decisions.  To date, 75 defenders have been trained, including key members of OSI’s protective detail responsible for guarding Eskan Village’s most senior personnel.  There are even plans to include the US Embassy Marine Security Guard Detachment in the training.  Having highly trained personnel protecting the installation remains a top priority for Major David Knight, Commander of the 879 ESFS: “Stories about gunmen and active shooters continue to generate national headlines.  Undergoing focused, reality-based training scenarios can mean the difference between life and death.  The simunition training allows participants to experience the most realistic tactical training available today.  Learning in the classroom is one thing, but when people are shooting back, tactical mistakes become self-critiquing.”

            The defenders of the 879 ESFS know that their level of proficiency can have a significant impact on the outcome of any situation, especially an event as harrowing as an active shooter incident.  By utilizing simunition rounds and the diverse skillsets of Tech. Sgt. Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Moran, the 879 ESFS can say with confidence that Eskan Village truly is “the hardest target in the Kingdom.”