The Urban Warfare Center® is a force-on-force or human versus human facility that was born out of adversity. It was created in 2002 from experiences that stemmed from growing up in a combat zone in Los Angeles, experiences with Military Special Operations in the 1980’s, and the stress factors related to water and land based rescue and recovery missions.
Shortly after moving OPSGEAR® to a warehouse in North Salt Lake I had my eyes set on another warehouse right next door. I could clearly see in my minds eye the layout of a multi-level less-than-lethal shoot house. My thoughts went back to England in the late 1980’s and a hostage rescue program I was able to attend. I considered the facilities we used, the tools we had (weapons) and the impact it had on me personally, and in my military career. Because of that program my thinking processes were forever changed. Based on that experience I knew if I could create a place that exposed people to high levels of perceived vulnerability and chaos in a controlled environment that we could increase skills retention and shorten training cycles. We would also be able to stimulate the middle brain and create veteran type experiences in new and old operators alike.
Over the period of about a year and a half the 10,000 square foot Urban Warfare Center® resolved into what it is today. Each addition and expansion was put against the test of creating vulnerability while not loosing the look and feel of an urban setting. The results are a place that requires constant vigilance and situational awareness. Team cohesion is forced or you will most likely fail the objectives established.
Built on the premise that “no good plan survives first contact with the enemy” the Urban Warfare Center® has become a model for building a teams approach on sound principles that survive the ever changing battle on the streets or abroad.
The ability exists to choke the facility down to one room, “T” intersections or a full blown village or urban setting.
Some of the key areas include:
- A second level prison requiring the rescuers to ascend a stair case prior to the assault.
- Long lanes or hallways that skirt the entire perimeter. These can be closed off to make dead ends or extended for longer funnels.
- Window closures that promote the isolation of certain areas or that extent the ability to shoot from one end of the urban area to another.
- Many small rooms to operate in or through.
- A ballistic breach door embedded in the architecture for using rams (courteously of ACTION TARGET).
- Several stair ways
- A second level apartment with removable firing ports that can convert it into a second level bunker. This room overlooks a very large open area used for scenarios, line drills or instruction.
- A vehicle (passenger van) for IED, high risk stops etc…
- A two story hotel facade that features doors, windows and long lanes.
- Several balconies that provide instructor over watch or space for role players.
- A courtyard used for teaching and practicing entry. Features a second level viewing area for one element to watch while another performs.
- The ability to move a wall and bring other vehicles inside the main area such as a military vehicle or patrol car.
- Transition areas such as crawl spaces.
- Areas that require a deep clear such as under stair cases.
We have literally had thousands of participants train in the Urban Warfare Center® over the years. Salt Lake SWAT has made it one of their monthly training locations for many years as have many other agencies.
We are believers that range time is critical for real world operators. On the range you build accuracy using muscle memory, and tactical reload. We also affirm that force-on-force training is as critical. Regardless if your patrol or SWAT, you need another human on the other side of the scenario moving, thinking and shooting back to condition you and your team for the real world engagement.
Being a less-than-lethal facility of course means no “live-fire”. Authorized technologies are Simunitions (you will need to bring), air soft or .68 caliber rubber balls that are provided. BLUE guns are also available for line drills or walk through teaching needs.
Combat Stress Program™
In the spirit of the quote, "he is best who is trained in the severest school," the Combat Stress Program™ teaches participants the principles that will ensure their ability to survive and thrive in the fiercest combat engagement. This day long course exposes participants to an environment as near to real as possible, reinforcing principles through force-on-force scenarios using marking gun technology that both reward success, and punish failure. This cutting edge course has received acclaim from both deploying and returning troops who have described the experience of the program as being as close as it gets to actual combat. This program has also been used by patrol and SWAT trainers as a primer for training with great success.
We begin by giving the unit its first scenario. This mission requires the unit to accomplish objectives as a cohesive unit in an environment that is as close to a real fight possible without really killing people. We do this by attacking using the five physical senses using controlled chaos.
Sight: The absence of or light in its extremes are used to overwhelm the sense of vision. The safety gear they wear will fog up or take rounds and produce the desired results of confusion. Some become totally incapacitated while others grab on to a partner and ask “what can I do to help”.
Sound: Multiple channels of pure high definition sound. As you move from one location to another the sounds shift. Examples are babies crying, Mid East music, dog’s barking, with women screaming and of course the sounds of battle mingled with helicopters. These sounds make it hard to verbally communicate and require units to use hand signals or touch to get the job done.
Taste: This sense is combined with smell in that when they get shot or rocked by the simulators, you can taste the smell, the paint from the rounds and the dirt. All these combine to make life very uncomfortable for an unspecified period of time.
Touch: Out of all the technologies around for shooting people in less than lethal ways, off the shelve paintball guns with modifications made by OPSGEAR became the premier solution. .68 caliber rounds are large and filled with thick water based paint. When you get hit you know it, and when you shoot another person the big SPLAT, and often the flinch of the person being shot gives you positive feedback that you engaged and hit the target successfully. It is also a clear friendly fire indicator as we use unique colors for good guys and bad guys. The psychological effect of paintball technology is intense. We have fired hundreds of thousands of rounds, and there is nothing that matches its impact on the shooter or the victim. At a cost of a few cents per ball you can’t beat the economics of it either.
Smell: As specifically produced shotgun shells and simulators explode, the smell of powder, dirt, sweet and debris fill the air. Smell is one of the most powerful reminders of stressful experiences we have had and we use it.
At times units have come into the facility thinking they were going to “play”. Within the first few minutes of the first scenario, and after receiving several thousand rounds on or in proximity to them, those notions are gone. They are now in survival mode trying to figure out if the best response to the over stimulation is FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE.
After the stress has been induced it is time to establish benchmarks for the individuals and teams as a whole. We talk about “how did you feel” during the fight. What physical symptoms did you experience? Humility is the normal conclusion to the first event. The remainder of the day is spent talking about principles of dominance in the urban setting, then running more scenarios focused on driving home important conclusions related to those very principles they are struggling with.
An example of a correct principle would be to stay out of “funnels” defined as windows and doorways. We reinforce this principle through firepower. Well placed shots by well trained and ego absent opposing forces (OPFOR) teach the principle clearly.
As the day progresses so do the missions, until at the end of the day the unit is ready to repeat a mission similar to the first one.
Because of this unique process of INDUCING, IDENTIFYING, and INDOCTRINATING stress, the symptoms and tools to overcome this life threatening condition in battle are retained. Principles learned are retained quicker, and the training cycle is reduced.
Another important consideration regarding this method of teaching is the fact that Special Operations units will get large doses of stress during selection and subsequent training. This enables them to dominate more quickly on the battlefield and respond with educated motor skills more rapidly to threats. Patrol officers, soldiers, sailors and airmen do not normally get the type of training that brings stress levels to the brink of Fight, Flight or Freeze. Therefore they have to learn about these responses in the field and are subject to enemy forces imposing their will upon them during this vulnerable learning curve. For units to hit the ground running, they must be stress induced, have the responses identified and be given tools to overcome the negative behaviors. Furthermore they must build motor skills that reward the proper responses to stress and threats. I.e. engaging appropriate threats, taking cover, communicating etc…
In a very real way we can accomplish in one day what most elite units pride themselves on doing over a sustained period of time. We are never trying to induce stress to “wash” someone out of a program as elite units may do out of selection necessity. However, we are heaping large amounts of pressure on them, which will require them to work together or fail. Success is determined by teamwork, communicating, doing your job under pressure, and accomplishing the mission.
by David Burnell - Founder
There was absolutely no cost to the police, federal agencies while we operated this facility from 2002-2012. www.opsgear.com