Young recruits with the Washington Army National Guard received realistic
training last weekend for their upcoming basic courses. Some of the recruits
are still waiting to move on to the next stage of their career as a soldier and
are not authorized to use real firearms. Instead - they walk, run and crawl
with airsoft guns.
Airsoft isn’t as messy or archaic as paintball as described by Sfc. Mike
Whitacre. He’s the lead on their July training at Spokane Airsoft located in
Northtown Mall. They only get a single weekend in a month to work with the
recruits, so they try to mix up the training locations to bring some recruits
closer to home.
“We can stay local. We only have two days for these guys to get trained,”
Sfc. Whitacre said. “...one weekend a month so if we’re spending a lot of time
on the road to let’s say Yakima, we’re taking away a lot of time we can use to
train these soldiers. We can find something local to maximize our training
The guard has used other locations in Spokane for their trainings including
the Spokane Police Academy, Fairchild Air Force Base and Riverside State Park.
Their most recent outing at the airsoft store was a first for the group and it
was designed to help them practice the techniques they learned over a
presentation and put the skills to use.
The realistic experience means crawling on the carpeted floor of the store
with opposing forces waiting for them. Some of them hide behind stacks of tires
or just around the corner of a plywood wall. Volunteers and store employees
participated in the training as the opposing force to give the recruits a
realistic scenario to work with.
Training outside a military facility is not an economical tactic says Sfc.
Whitacre. He describes the guard more as of a community organization compared
to the other branches of military. They like to source things out to the
community. The co-owners of Spokane Airsoft (one being a KXLY Broadcast
Group employee) have been contributing to their trainings for about five
years. They also invite the recruits to a 46-acre property near Reardan for an
The sustainment program helps the recruits during their transition from
civilian to soldier. After basic, it’s time for the individual job training to
help them go into a variety of careers from medical and administrative.
As a standing militia, the guard is designed to keep their soldiers local in
case the state finds a need for their assistance like natural disasters.
Basically, Sfc. Whitacre said, they’re the home team.
“There was flooding in the Centralia area over the winter. Obviously forest fires
are pretty much every summer. Sometimes we had some calls out to other states
to help,” Sfc. Whitacre said. “Hurricane Katrina is another good example. It
was so devastating, the guard there was unable to handle the whole thing. It
was too ginormous of a disaster so they called on many states to help out with
The recruits are not at that stage yet, but eventually they will be. Most of
the recruits range from ages 17 to 21 and some of them are still waiting for
their uniforms to come in. In the meantime, they train.
“Using airsoft allows them to have realistic training. They’ll be ahead of
the game,” Sfc. Whitacre continued.
Nicole Hensley, Web Producer
Friday, July 27th, 2012, 5:39pm