By Antonio Zarzoza
It seemed to be another regular day of training with the Special Emergencies Response Team of a County Jail in South Texas, but little did the officers know about the surprise I was packing inside my training duffle bag. I started the class with a review of the Power Points of the basic and alternative formations for Cell Extraction, I covered Tactical Application Principles, areas of responsibility, verbal commands, team work and threat assesment.
I informed all officers that this time our practical application or drills will be a little more demanding due to the fact that this course was going to count towards their intermmediate SERT school. I also advised them to be on th look out for the possibility of weapons and the potential of its use by the "bad guy". We all headed towards an eight-man cell where a group of officers playing the role of inmates where waiting to start a conflict. Once suited up the team was deployed, everything ran "text-book sharp" They all went in, did their job and "Mission accomplished" a relativeley simple cell extraction had just been performed "without injuries".
Prior to conducting debriefing I asked them not to remove their helmets nor face shields, and once in full during the debriefing I requested feedback and comments, all of the officers seemed very pleased with their performance even though 3 of the 8 "combative inmates" were armed with "shanks." When I asked them if they had been cut, slashed or even slightly reached by those weapons all of my officers replied with a proud "NO, I don't think so". Then and only then I asked them to remove their helmets and take a look at themselves...
The findings, multiple green lines all over the armor, arms, legs and neck of several officers, when they asked me what that was about, I just informed them that those "mean green" marks were slashes from the inmates, some of them in the armor area, but most of them in life threatening spots of their bodies. They still did not know what I was talking about, until I showed to them our new little training toy... "THE SHANK FROM VIRTUALBLADE" a hard plastic training knife similar to a shank, similar in size and concealable capabilities, this training shank contains a marking system that leaves a non-toxic green mark wherever the hit is delivered.
My officers learned their lesson with this eye opener drill, we all corrected the mistakes that led towards these fatal mistakes and the following drills and conflict scenarios ran smooth without compromising officers safety. YES, they still presented a few green marks, but all of them within the protection of their body armor. After all, our training does not aim to perfection but to MAXIMIZING the officer's capabilities for survival and self-preservation while MINIMIZING exposure to life threatening injuries with the objective to NULLIFY the attacker's attempt to be successful.