Law-enforcement officers must be prepared for situations that require entering a building to confront a shooter or extracting a wounded person, according to Liberty County Sheriff Steve C. Sikes.
To prepare for this type of risky operation, deputies with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office took part Tuesday in an annual live-fire training exercise at Fort Stewart’s Close Quarters Battle Shoothouse.
This year’s exercise included participation by Hinesville firefighters, paramedics and Fort Stewart’s Special Reaction Team.
The facility is a large, covered shelter with a floor plan similar to a home or office with a large entry room, hallways and several smaller rooms on the first floor with a stairwell leading to additional rooms on the second floor. The interior is padded to absorb bullets. The shoothouse has no ceiling, which allows trainers like Capt. David Edwards, Liberty County Sheriff’s Office training and traffic control coordinator, and Capt. Keith Jenkins, training and traffic control officer, to observe from the catwalks surrounding the first and second floors.
Jenkins said this year’s training was different than previous years because he and Edwards incorporated realistic situations beyond entering a room or clearing a building of “bad guys.”
In a real-world situation, like a shooter in a public school or courthouse, deputies likely would be working with other agencies to include special weapons and tactics teams and medical personnel.
“This multi-level shoothouse is the best facility for us to train in,” said Edwards, noting that he and Jenkins would like to hold non-lethal training at local schools after hours or when school is out on breaks. “That would allow our officers a chance to become familiar with those facilities. But for live-fire training, this shoothouse is perfect for us. If not for Fort Stewart’s support, we couldn’t have this kind of training.”
Edwards believes the more their deputies train, the more prepared they’ll be if called on to respond to shootout situations. Jenkins said the emphasis away from simply shooting to interacting with other agencies or extracting an injured person is in line with the department’s philosophy.
“Our goal is not to take lives,” he said. “Our goal is to save lives. The public expects us to safeguard the community, and that’s what we train for.”
After four hours rehearsing and critiquing each other Tuesday morning, teams of six to eight officers conducted a dry run through the shoothouse with simulated ammunition then a live-fire run.
Each exercise began with officers kicking in the door to the large room on the bottom floor. On entering the room, they reacted to silhouettes of bad guys holding weapons or good guys (green silhouettes) with no weapons. When that room was cleared, they lined the wall near the doorway to the hall, then, one by one, they burst into the hall, clearing it of bad guys, and then moving on to other rooms. A downed officer, represented by a mannequin, was attended to by paramedics when all rooms were cleared but was not extracted until the team was moving onto the stairwell.
After each team completed its run, the members met outside while Jenkins critiqued them from his perch on the catwalk for what they did right and what they needed to work on.