By Scott Wagner
As we know all too well, training and equipment dollars are at a premium, even in this post-911 era of grants from the Department of Homeland Security. This holds especially true for tactical team equipment — tactical teams sometimes being the “red headed stepchild” of an agency depending, on the chief, sheriff or administration in charge and their attitudes towards the concept.
This means that money spent on tactical teams needs to be spent wisely, allowing the team to get the most “bang for the buck” from the equipment they purchase. In order for a team leader or quartermaster to receive long term, ongoing approval from their superiors in the area of equipment selection and acquisition, new equipment purchases that either fill a needed void or replace worn or outmoded equipment should possess, in my opinion, three basic characteristics.
New equipment should be innovative — that is, it should be an improvement over the item it is replacing OR it should be the best that technology has to offer at the time-and be better than previous designs if possible.
Next, as the cost of various items rises, the items should have a high degree of versatility. They should be deployed in as wide a variety of situations as is practicable; proving that the new equipment will get a lot of use.
To be used frequently, not only does equipment need to be versatile, it also needs to possess utility. Having utility means it works very well for the purpose for which it was designed without modifications being needed to be made by end users to make it work. Lastly, in the category of “added plus” is the “cool factor.”
Tactical teams like to show off their newest and best gear (it is all about the toys after all, isn’t it?). Every team wants to have the newest and best gear, to be the first or only kids on the block with something, and have all the neighboring kids say “I gotta have one [or several] of those!” Hopefully, your equipment purchase will be loaded with the cool factor, and it will be if you choose our purchases based on the first three factors.
One particular piece of equipment I have been working with that fulfills the first three requirements above, and which also possesses the fourth unofficial factor of “cool” is the Patriot 3™ LadderShield. Patriot 3, best known for their elevated portable team breaching systems such as the RAID and MARS, have begun branching out into the area of portable ballistic shielding systems, which actually augment and support the mission of the RAID and MARS.
At the 727 Counter Terror Training Unit at Columbus State Community College, our training mission centers around an Advanced Tubular Assault Course that utilizes live platforms of bus, train and aircraft-the centerpiece of which is our live Boeing 727 donated to us by Fedex (www.cscc.edu/cttu ).
When I began talking with Duane Stokes and Mike Ruggieri of Patriot 3 about the MARS and RAID in reference to our training program, Mike told me about their new LadderShield, which was specifically designed with the bus assault mission in mind. While the original intent for the LadderShield was bus assault, as it terms out the system is very versatile and capable of much more.
I received two NIJ-3A Simulated Non-Ballistic Training Ladder Shields for use in our first class. The Training Model is a less expensive version of the system that replicates all the details and weight of the ballistic model. The NIJ-3A model, obviously provides a 3A level of additional ballistic protection. It is 2 ft by 4 ft in size, and at only 31 pounds, rapidly deployable.
There is a 4” by 18” Lexan type viewing port, rubber stability “feet” on the front top of the shield to allow for a solid, non-slip rest when placed against a surface to be breached, and stainless steel spiked feet for anchoring. A light is now available for the front of the shield as well.
The really unique part of the shield is of course the built in 4 rung ladder that serves as the frame and carrying handles on the inside. This allows you to carry and use the shield as ballistic protection, and rapidly, much more rapidly I think than a regular ladder, deploy it for ascending the side of a bus, wall or other structure within its reach area.
At first I was unsure of how well the shields would work, as is the case sometimes with things that are innovative. Our instructor pool didn’t have a chance to work with the shields prior to the class in our trainup period, so the shields were not put to actual use until the actual training program.
The students in the inaugural class consisted of wide range of tactical operators; Marines from 25th India Company in New Jersey, an officer from the Miami-Metro Dade SWAT Team, SWAT officers from Ogden Utah, the Missouri State Police, and Ottawa Kansas, local deputies from the Franklin County Ohio Sheriff’s SWAT Team, Hocking County Sheriff’s SWAT Team, Licking County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team, and individual officers from the Logan Ohio Police Dept. SWAT team and Columbus Ohio Police SWAT Team.
Our instructor pool draws from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Columbus Police SWAT Team and Columbus Police Department Instructors, as well as officers from several smaller area P.D.’s. Most of our lead instructors also have an Army Special Forces background in addition to their police experience. With the capabilities of both instructors and students in the class, my initial uncertainty proved to be groundless (should’ve known that).
Students and instructor working with the shields found that the shields were easy to move, and provided an increased measure of protection for the ladder carrier when assaulting a bus. After all, if your hands have to full carrying something, it might as well have shielding as a part of it. In practice the LadderShield bearers carry the shields to protect themselves and other team members behind them, then they rapidly place them and move in to support the containment officers on the ladders as soon as they begin to ascend. The ladder rungs are deep enough for standing long term, and holding the position, not just for quick movement to an elevated position. The spiked feet anchored well in dirt or asphalt, and will also provide solid purchase on concrete because there are multiple points of contact at the base, two per foot.
There is one area in bus assault that needs to be kept in mind when using the LadderShield. You need to make sure that you place it on either side of the wheel well on the containment side of the bus. Due to the 4 foot height, the rubber top feet rest on the tire rather than over it.
While this positioning works, it is not as stable as resting the upper feet of the shield against the bus body itself. I watched as the shields were put through their paces on the 4th day of class, which was scheduled for bus and passenger train assault. We use these platforms as a way of working up to our Boeing 727, and getting the operators familiar with our style of tubular assault.
We also use a wide range of platforms to make our Advanced Tubular Assault class applicable to the widest range of departments possible. While a particular jurisdiction may not have planes as large or larger than a Boeing 727 landing in their jurisdictions, (if they even have an airport), they certainly have school buses, possibly transit buses, and maybe even an AMTRAK line running through it.
To put it simply, all the operators took to the LadderShield like a duck to water. The shields placed precisely and held their positions, there was no sliding around on the side of the bus like one might find using a regular ladder. The spiked feet at the base and the rubber feet at the top assured that there was no slippage below. There was no desire or need on the part of anyone to work with a standard type ladder for this type of operation. The LadderShield handled it with aplomb and fulfilled the mission of a standard shield as well.
The LadderShield will also work for breaching short walls or other areas where some additional height is needed by the user. Having what amounts to multiple handles inside and a wide flat ladder frame on either side also allows the user to lay and support the shield sideways on the ground, along with a second user.
I was really pleased with the results of using the LadderShield in our training program, it added an additional degree of smoothness to the process of school bus assault and containment. If you are looking for a new or replacement ballistic shielding system, one that can cover any basic shield requirement, plus give you the added versatility of the built in ladder, I would highly recommend the NIJ-3A LadderShield.
Patriot 3’s LadderShield; innovative, versatile and packed with multi-mission capability. Oh yes, and also very “cool.” Contact Patriot 3 for more information.
Scott Wagner, Commander
727 Counter Terror Training Unit
Columbus State Community College