MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. †
On June 7, 2022, the sound of gunshots echoed through the hallways of a former civil engineering building at Maxwell Air Force Base’s Gunter Annex. Most people would have instinctively called security forces, but members of the 908th Airlift Wing’s Security Forces Squadron were already on the scene training in a virtual reality simulator where they tested their use of reasoning by force.
This annual training plays a vital role in the 908th SFS members’ ability to make split-second decisions with as much information as possible. However, the training does not start in the simulator. It begins in a classroom, where students study the proper definition of violence and are refreshed on lawsuits such as the US Supreme Court case Graham v. Connor (1989), Students learn how and when to use violence.
Then the students test their knowledge in the simulator. The five panoramic screens can create realistic situations that are controlled by the trainers, putting students in different circumstances where they have to interact with a potential subject. When a subject refuses to respond to a command, the student must respond appropriately, relying on their training.
“The biggest benefit is that students understand how and when to use force,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Meadows, defender and non-commissioned officer in charge of training for 908th SFS. “My goal is for them to feel comfortable with their training so that they can use it competently if they find themselves in a chaotic situation.”
A two-part training that finds civilian police officer and 908th SFS member Senior Airman Amber Clemente only makes her a sharper police officer.
“I think every situation as an agent is a new situation,” she said. “So training for the job just takes you to the next level.”
That high level of training seemed to be appreciated by other members who may not have the same experience as Clemente.
“It’s quite an experience,” said Senior Airman Ricardo Arias, 908th SFS Member. “It’s not something you’ll get anywhere else. You get what feels like hands-on training in the real world without the risk of injury.”
The use of strength training gives the 908th SFS members perspective on situation analysis, threat level monitoring and responding with the appropriate available force. Training events such as these, combined with tools such as the virtual reality simulator, ultimately ensure that the members of the 908 SFS are ready for action when they arise.
“The training helps them,” Meadows said. “Even from a legal standpoint, knowing when to use force is something we have to deal with, even in the military.”