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By Dave Smith, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
/ Published August 24, 2016
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Isaac Lopez, 21st Security Forces Squadron trainer, conducts a regular training session at the 21st SFS training facility on Peterson Air Force Base. The 125,000-square-foot building serves the vast training needs for both the 21st SFS and other area military and law enforcement agencies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.— A beret-wearing Airman checking IDs at the Peterson Air Force Base entry gate offers a friendly welcome. A white police car, similar to its civilian cousins, passes, patrolling the expanse of the installation.
For many people, those types of instances are the extent of exposure to 21st Security Forces Squadron. But, unbeknownst to many, the squadron has more responsibilities helping to fulfill the Wing’s mission to conduct world class space superiority operations and provide unsurpassed installation support and protection while deploying Warrior Airmen.
Training is a critical piece for 21st SFS to provide safety and security for Peterson Airmen and its base populace. To meet the constant need of honing and refining various skills related to the career field, the squadron has a 125,000-plus square feet training facility that is unrivaled in the area.
“It is the premier front range security forces facility,” said Tech. Sgt. Reinaldo Velazquez, non-commissioned officer in charge of training for the 21st SFS.
He is not alone in his opinion. Personnel from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Schriever Air Force Base, and the United States Air Force Academy all come to Peterson to train. Other groups like the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department and SWAT team, Colorado Springs Police Department, Pueblo SWAT team and Custer County law enforcement travel to the base to take advantage of what the facility has to offer. Army military police and special operations groups use it too.
“Due to the size and nature of the facility, once agencies find what we offer, they are more than willing to get on board,” Velazquez said. “It has become a huge asset for training requirements for security forces and law enforcement.”
There are several sectors within the training site, so a wide range of training can be held simultaneously, and more than one group can train at a time. Velazquez said the squadron is fortunate to have secured the former Base Exchange to use as a security forces training space.
“It is used almost every single day,” said Velazquez. “And a group from the area uses it at least each month.”
The facility houses virtual shooting, close quarters combat, Hogan’s Alley and vehicle/military working dog areas. The areas allow training that is as near to real-life as possible. Velazquez said that type of training prepares 21st SFS team members to better handle most situations they will face on the job, wherever it may take them.
The facility is a combination of high tech and low tech. For example, the virtual shooting area lets trainers set up scenarios featuring various stressors that require trainees to make hard decisions about whether to shoot, not shoot, or use a non-lethal form of weapon. They can also run deployment scenarios.
Scenarios use laser-based technology with a large screen, weapons that are in nearly every way like real ones, and computers to set up any number of situations. Trainers can even change it up along the way.
“We can control scenarios to match what a live person does,” Velazquez said.
In the CQB area there are no lasers nor computers, but it is still an important, effective portion of training. The area includes doors to breach and office furniture and cubicles that can be arranged to meet any training need. Dummies can be placed in certain spots to replicate an office situation, chairs and other office equipment can be arranged and rearranged to make trainees handle situations differently each pass through. Stressors, like loud music, can even be added to the scenario to train team members to prepare for what they will face in real-life situations.
Hogan’s Alley puts weapons that shoot a laser beam into play. Shots are recorded to a computer monitoring system for scoring and analysis.
“We can reconfigure it many ways,” said Velazquez. “We can use pop-up dummies to make it more realistic, too.”
Force-on-force training is another valuable way the facility can be used. Groups suit up in simulation suits that record hits from opponents.
“Live action livens up the game a bit,” he said. “It helps focus on tactics. It’s good for leaders.”
A garage area, complete with vehicles, serves to train military working dogs and also security forces members for vehicle challenges. Different stressors, like police lights and loud noise can be incorporated to address eventualities that could come up during the course of a day’s work. An adjoining warehouse space is also used to train MWDs.
Add to all of that some classroom space, and a lot of training can take place in one location at the same time. The real value of the training site is its multi-use capability.
“There are 22 distinct training environments here,” said Isaac Lopez, 21st SFS trainer. “We have the pure resources available to accompany training and to get people where they need to be. The training needs to be meaningful and practical.”
Use by outside organizations is parlayed into more training opportunities for the 21st SFS, opportunities Velazquez said it would not get without the facility to trade upon.
“We do quid pro quo stuff with outside organizations, trade-offs,” he said. “It’s a huge value added as far as being able to cross utilize resources to help each other out.”
Having such a facility provides a great deal of cost savings, Velazquez said. Using simulated rounds brings a significant savings over firing live rounds and travelling to the USAFA to use its live fire range.
Travelling to the Academy used to be required when new weapons were assigned to security forces members. Zeroing in sights meant a trip to its range, and the accompanying travel time. Now Velazquez said it can be done at the training location on Peterson using laser devices.
TASER and ASP (baton) certification is now done on base too, with the space and personnel who can certify others. Again, not having to send people off-site for the annual training is a huge savings, Velazquez said.
With all the training facility has to offer, the 21st SFS is looking for even more ways to make use of the gift of space they have. Clearing out space to use for training on handling drunk drivers and other situations are under consideration.
“All of the people before me did a great job setting this up,” he said. “they used outside of the box thinking to make set ups that prevent complacency.”
This is the first in a series of articles highlighting some of the major responsibilities of the 21st Security Forces Squadron.