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Shoot house practice gives Rangers on-target combat training

POSTED: January 31, 2009 11:08 p.m.
CLAIRE MILLER/Times regional staff

Braselton Assistant Police Chief Lou Solis (black shirt) talks to members of the 5th Army Ranger Training Battalion, who traveled from Dahlonega to use Braselton's shoot house and firing range for close quarters and high-stress combat training.

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BRASELTON — Spc. Daniel Garcia of the 5th Army Ranger Training Battalion had quite the task in front of him. He had to pull a thin sled with a dummy wounded soldier on it 250 feet, lie down and aim his semi-automatic weapon at a target 50 feet away and shoot four rounds each into the remaining targets from different distances.

Garcia completed all of this work in 2 minutes and 25 seconds, competing with his fellow Army Rangers at a designated shooting range in Braselton as part of his unit’s practice for high-stress situations.

“This course teaches them how to work under stress and fatigue,” said Braselton police officer Adam Garrison. “This is close quarter combat and stress fire that they’re working on.”

Garrison and Assistant Police Chief Lou Solis often travel to the shoot house and firing range behind the Braselton Water Reclamation Facility off Josh Pirkle Road to assist units like Garcia’s in practicing drills.

A dirt road past the reclamation facility leads back to a large field, and to the left, a wooden awning abuts the firing range. The targets at the far end of the range have piles of tires, a dirt hill and trees behind them as a protective barrier between the range and the adjoining property.

The shoot house and the firing range reside are owned by the town of Braselton and were purchased with seized drug money, Solis said.

About 39 law enforcement departments in Georgia come to the facility practice throughout the year to refresh their skills in combative scenarios. In September, another soldiers from the 5th Army Ranger Training Battalion, based at Camp Frank D. Merrill near Dahlonega and part of the U.S. Army Ranger School, trained in Braselton.

“We have to stay proficient at what we do,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon O’Malley, a member of Garcia’s unit.

“We’re not a big unit, and this facility is the perfect size.”

Knowing the basics

Solis said the training reiterates the basics of combat against people with guns. The unit members are trained to look for a person’s gun, which is referred to as the “threat.” But if the situation gets dangerous, officers know not to aim for the gun.

“I want to shoot this,” Solis said, pointing to the chest area of a photo used on a target. “That way you’ve got a bigger target. All I know is this guy wants to kill me ... and you shoot until the threat goes down.”

Making house calls

The unit also practiced combat in a shoot house owned by the town of Braselton, a structure with 10 rooms that allows them to see what it’s like to have to go room to room in a home or building in Iraq, Solis said.

Before entering the building, soldiers practice in the grassy expanse adjacent to the structure. Targets are set up and ropes tied in a rectangular pattern that reflects the building’s layout.

“You have to crawl before you can walk,” Solis explained. The unit practices with blank ammunition outside the building, which is considered the “crawl” phase.

From there, the unit goes through the house twice: once with blank ammunition, once with live ammunition. These are the “walk” and “run” phases, and are used to teach the unit how to go through a building, check for insurgents and protect any residents from insurgents, he said.

The unit leaders watch from a metal walkway above the rooms and give the unit members advice following each run.

This training, in conjunction with the exercises at the firing range, provides a controlled environment for law enforcement officers to work out all the kinks before heading out into real danger.

“If you’re going to screw up, this is the place to do it,” Solis said.
But at the end of the day, the unit takes a look back at their work and have a good laugh at each other’s expense.

“They make fun of each other, but it’s all in good fun,” Solis said.


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