Thursday, December 22, 2011

StressVest adds realism to force-on-force training

Force-on-force training is a critical part of any law enforcement officer’s basic and in-service education. Basic skills learned by shooting holes in a paper target or striking a pad or training dummy don’t translate well to a world where the targets move on their own, hide behind things, and shoot or hit back. There is no substitute for introducing a live opponent into the fight.

Those live opponents come with their own set of complexities. Using paintball, Airsoft, or Simunition weapons means protecting the participants from injury, and that involves wearing goggles, face masks and possibly heavy gloves that detract from the realism of the scenario. The best simulation training duplicates the real world as closely as possible.

That’s what the makers of the StressVest system are going for with their “stress inoculation training” system.

All in the Family
The StressVest is an offshoot of and uses the same technology as the ShocKnife, made by the same company. The problem the ShocKnife tries to address is the same — realistic simulation training. Most edged-weapon defense training has to be done with dull or rubber knives for obvious reasons — it won’t do to have trainees finish up the course with gaping, open wounds. Yet, there’s no negative reinforcement to being “cut” with a rubber knife. The ShocKnife uses a harmless but painful high voltage, low amperage jolt of electricity to zap anyone who comes in contact with the blade. The reinforcement is realistic and immediate.

The StressVest extrapolates the concept to the entire upper body and even extremities with a vest worn over the trainee’s shirt. When the laser-sensitive panels on the front and back are struck with the beam from a laser emitter in an opponent’s firearm, the wearer gets a very brief but painful shock. The vest can be set up for varying intensities of shock, and can even be set to require multiple laser hits before delivering the shock. Accessory panels for the arms can extend the sensation to the extremities.

The basic model of the StressVest is manually activated by a trainer before a scenario begins. An “RF” (radio frequency) model uses a car key-type wireless fob to activate or deactivate the vest(s) at the instructor’s command. The vests themselves are powered by a standard 9V battery.

Tremendous Training Value
The triggering laser beams come from bullet-size emitters that drop into regular sidearms or shotguns equipped with a retrofit kit, or from special dedicated simulation firearms that will fit in regular duty holsters but are incapable of firing projectile ammunition. Which are best suited is largely dependent on the type of firearms in use by your trainees. Sidearms that fire double-action without manual recocking will work with the drop-in hardware, but weapons like the Glock — which requires racking of the slide to reset the trigger — aren’t suited for that type of adapter.

Used effectively, the value of this kind of reinforcement is tremendous. Early simulation training would end when a bad guy got the drop on the police trainee, firing a blank cartridge followed by a grim, “you’re dead.” Eventually trainers got the idea they were conditioning cops to stop fighting and die if they got shot, and the mantra of “never give up while there’s still a breath left in you” became the watchword. Still, trainees didn’t have to fight through anything except physical resistance from the simulated bad guys until paintballs, Airsoft and Simunitions came into play, and it hurt to get popped with one of those projectiles. The StressVest maintains that same sense of realism but eliminates the need for special protective gear and an environment tolerant of stray paintballs and similar decoration.

Introduction of gear like this requires careful supervision and policy writing. Cops are born pranksters, and any device capable of delivering a painless but harmless shock is going to be used in a practical joke faster than you can say “hostile workplace lawsuit.” Everyone with access to the equipment has to understand how it is to be used, and that penalties for willful misuse will be swift, sure and severe.

This is not inexpensive hardware. The price of a single basic model of the StressVest is $1,999.00, with discounts for multiple units purchased as a package. Their website includes several videos, testimonials, a price list, and other details.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fighting for fun is air-gun battle station’s business

Fans of urban warfare finally have a place where they can target each other in Wichita.

All in good fun, of course.Wichita Indoor Airsoft opened this month in the Kellogg Crossing Center. Housed in a former call center, it’s a maze of about 20 rooms built of two-by-fours and plywood and containing airsoft obstacles such as oil drums and the remnants of a Halloween haunted house.Up front there’s a snack bar and counter where airsoft equipment can be rented.

The setup is conducive to simulated “CQB," or close quarters battle, as opposed to air-gun battles that take place outdoors.

“This is a lot faster paced" than outdoor battle games, said Sean Black, who manages the airsoft facility. “You’re a lot closer. You’re going to room to room and there are obstacles to go around, which is real popular.

"In the [airsoft] games, teams of up to 15 people start at either end of the 15,000-square-foot space and make their way toward each other, attempting to shoot each other with plastic 6-millimeter [airsoft] balls fired from [airsoft] guns modeled after assault weapons.

One hit and a player is eliminated from the game. A referee monitors all games to resolve disputes and make sure there’s no cheating, Black said. Among other things, players are prohibited from firing blindly around corners and shooting each other from within five feet. Violations of rules can result in [airsoft] players being banned for the day or permanently.

Goggles, long pants and long-sleeved shirts are required, although Black said the airsoft pellets don’t travel at a velocity high enough to penetrate skin. Still, being hit can sting, which is why Black also recommends that [airsoft] players wear gloves.

“It’s not real painful, but it’s enough to let you know you’ve been hit," Black said. “I’ve taken a shot in the knuckles, and that’s the last place you want to get hit."

An all-day pass costs $20 and airsoft gun rental is another $15, although players can bring their own. The airsoft facility is open to the public Friday through Sunday and available for private rental during the week.

Black said airsoft gun battle games appeal to a wide range of people, but especially those who enjoy video games simulating warfare.

“I think the biggest thing is the realism," he said. “What’s popular is the first-person shooter video games. You’re essentially doing that for real, but it’s still just a game."Black said his boss, Rick Kite, first applied for a permit to open about three years ago but was turned down by the city of Wichita, apparently because of an ordinance restricting the discharge of air-powered guns in the city. Then this fall, Kite finally got the go-ahead, Black said.

Kite also owns BB Airsoft World, a shop at 106 S. West St. that sells air-powered guns and airsoft accessories.“At the end of the day, it’s indoor entertainment," Black said of the air-gun battleground. “It’s no different than playing laser tag or indoor miniature golf."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kids Line Up To Sit With Santa

With less than a week til Christmas, everyone is busy, finishing last minute shopping. But no one is as busy as the big man --- Santa Claus. Today, we stopped by the mall, where he was taking a break from toy making, to find out what good little girls and boys want for Christmas, and they had their lists ready!

"A big lawnmower," said Robby Kennedy, just 2 and a half years old.

Three year old Braden Skidmore said he wants a monster truck and Madison McDaniel planned to ask Santa for a trampoline.

Gift requests ranged from new sports equipment, to hunting supplies, and even a few toy trucks and dolls. But Santa says this year, the big surprise for him, is the number of little kids asking for big kid gifts.

"The one thing that's really struck me this year was a lot of electronics. Ipods, Ipads, even kindles for kids that's I would think- 'What would you do with this?'," Santa said.

And there were plenty of those requests to go around.

"I wanted an Ipad and a 3DS and a dairy queen blizzard maker," said 6 year old Brayden Marshall.

His 4 year old brother Ben planned to ask fora "toy laptop. And I got my picture made with Santa at my school."

"X-Box360 with connect and an airsoft gun," is what 7 year old Jack McDaniel hopes to find Sunday morning. And Tabitha Yoder told us she wants an X-Box, too.

And for those who give Santa their list...but don't quite believe he's the real thing....

"Of course! I'm here and I feel pretty really and if they wanna check the beard or pinch me to see if I'm real and that usually satisfies most young ones," said Santa.

And if you haven't gotten a chance to give Santa your list yet, don't worry. He tells us he'll be at the mall til it closes on Christmas Eve, when he'll head back to the North Pole and start his busy night!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Police officers help local children finish their Christmas shopping

Christian Mattson was a teenager on a mission Saturday morning in Longview, darting down aisles and filling his shopping cart with gifts for his parents and two brothers.

With the help of Castle Rock police reserve officer Chris Koehler and a $125 donated gift card, Christian scanned aisles and double checked prices, replacing items when he found a more thrifty alternative during the annual Shop with a Cop program.

"My mom's really good at bargain shopping so I'm trying to do that," the 13-year-old explained.

And only after all of his family's presents were safely in the cart did Christian look for anything for himself, finally selecting a hat and T-shirt after deciding an airsoft gun and a coat were both too expensive.

"That's the way it is with most of the kids," said Sgt. Scott Neves of the Castle Rock Police Department, who said he had to almost twist Troy Werly's arm to get the Castle Rock 12-year-old to get something for himself. "That's why I like doing this so much."

Ninety local children from Vader to Woodland received the extra help with their purchases this year thanks to the programs organized by police Chaplain Steve White and, new this year, the police departments in the southern part of the county.

The Shop with a Cop program matches children from lower income families with a police officer to shop for Christmas gifts. In addition to helping with the kids' shopping lists, organizers like to give the children exposure to police in a friendly, non-threatening setting. And the officers say they have a blast playing Santa with the kids.

"It's really fun for us," Castle Rock Police Officer Charlie Worley said. "We get to show them we're human too and that we like to have fun and joke around."

Longview and Kelso police officers shopped with elementary students from their towns — Longview at the Seventh Avenue Walmart on Friday and Kelso at Target on Saturday. Castle Rock Police Department and Cowlitz County sheriff's deputies visited the Ocean Beach Highway Walmart Saturday with middle school students from Castle Rock, Toutle and Vader. Those three shopping sprees were paid for with $12,000 in donations, including $2,000 each from the two Longview Walmarts, White said.

Further south, officers from the Woodland, Kalama and Ridgefield police departments and representatives form the sheriff's office held their first Shop with a Cop program Saturday as well.

They helped 30 children shop at the Woodland Walmart, thanks to a $3,300 donation from the Woodland Walmart, as well as donations from General Mills and the officers. Shoppers also donated money after witnessing the event, according to Woodland police. Each child had $100 to spend and organizers are already planning next year's event, Woodland Police Chief Rob Stephenson wrote in a statement.

As the children rang up their purchases in Longview on Saturday, officers said over and over again how impressed they were to see the children forgoing extra gifts for themselves in order to share with their families. The children, though, said being able to give gifts was a present in itself.

"It's fun to be able to buy something for them," Troy Werly said. "Usually I just make cards."

"I think it's going to be really fun to see the expressions on their faces when they open these up," said 12-year-old Justise Anderson of Castle Rock.