By Scott Prater
Runners or cyclists who have made a trip out to the southeast corner of the base lately may have noticed an odd-looking structure. The rectangular shaped, white corrugated metal building with railing running along the top may seem like a large storage shack or maintenance shop, but its bland exterior hides a much more action-packed purpose.
Though it doesn’t have an official name yet, 50th Security Forces Squadron members simply refer to it as the “shoot house.”
Squardon trainers say it has become an invaluable resource in the development of 50 SFS members, especially when it comes to training in active-shooter scenarios.
Three training elements have already experienced week-long shoot house exercises since the facility’s completion in January.
“Our members have been telling us they really like it because it gives them a realistic feel for the training scenarios,” said Staff Sgt. Kathleen Sullivan, 50 SFS lead trainer. “It allows them to better hone and perfect their skills.”
Constructed of six metal shipping containers welded together, the building can withstand practically anything security forces members throw at it.
“We can kick through doors and run into walls without any concern for damaging the building,” said Lt. Col. Jasin Cooley, 50 SFS commander.
The shoot house also allows members to use “simunition,” which ramps up training scenarios to near lifelike levels, according to Senior Airman Adam Donahue, 50 SFS trainer.
“Previous training methods were more like video games,” Donahue said. “The simunition creates a more realistic weapon for members. We can use our M-4s and M-9s, but with simunition rounds that shoot a combination of lipstick and detergent instead of bullets. The key thing there is that it teaches members to use the training and tactics they’ve received.”
Tech. Sgt. Michael Benitez, NCO in charge of training, explained that each 50 SFS member must complete annual training. The squadron offers a three-week course, two weeks in the classroom and one week of live-scenario training now that the shoot house has become operational.
Trainers create scenarios for members to follow in the shoot house, everything ranging from move and clear operations to hostage and opposing-forces situations.
“It’s great to be able to train using your own weapon and your own protective gear in a realistic scenario,” Benitez said. “Even if it’s an understanding of where you place items on yourself, you may figure out that when you place your ammunition on your left side it impedes your action when crouching or moving. That kind of stuff is important to learn and it won’t present itself in a less genuine environment.”
The building also presents members with multiple entrances, movable walls and reinforced doors, which require force to open.
“This is an aspect not offered by any other building on base, “Cooley said. “Moreover, the simunition rounds reinforce better cover and concealment practices. And of course, the pain feedback of being hit by those rounds provides defenders with an immediate critique of bad tactics.”
A glance inside from the catwalk above, reveals paint splattered walls from simunitions and broken wood blocks, from trainers who have reinforced door openings.
“The facility is really versatile and it’s well made for evaluations,” Benitez said. “You’ll notice that the interior doors have removable wooden plates that we can replace once they get damaged. We can view an operation from start to finish and be able to debrief members immediately afterward, all in a safe manner for everyone involved.”
The shoot house has become so successful that security forces from other local military installations have made requests to train their members there as well.
“We’re excited to improve the body of tactical knowledge of both Schriever and Peterson security forces,” Cooley said. “Based on the downrange mission in which many of our Airmen participate, and the prevalence of the current ‘active shooter’ threat, this new facility will have a strong influence on personnel safety.”
Benitez explained that 50 SFS begins a new training class roughly once a month and that most squadron members will complete their annual training, including shoot house experience, by years end.