For anyone seriously interested in tactical training, the Fresno (CA) Police Department Regional Training Center is a thing of beauty. The expansive campus includes a variety of rifle ranges, a sniper tower, emergency vehicle operations course, classroom with simulators, and a tactical house.
Two of those facilities — the sniper tower and the custom tactical house — were manufactured by Tactical Training Systems, and installed in 2010. Aside from the classroom and shooting range, the two tactical structures are the most heavily used assets at the center, each being employed at least three or four times a week.
“The sniper tower and tac house have held up surprisingly well for the past dozen years,” says Sergeant Justin Hoagland with the Fresno Police Department. “Being metal structures is the greatest advantage, along with having replaceable plywood for the barricade/breaching door. The moveable walls are an added bonus. We change the layouts often so teams and operators don’t get ‘used to’ the same layout for every training cycle.”
Advantages of Customized Training
According to Hoagland, the best feature of the sniper tower is the ability for operators to prone out by using the garage-like doors on the second story to replicate several different shooting engagement problems such as elevated positions.
“The tac house’s best feature is the ability to move walls to create an entirely different floor plan,” says Hoagland, who serves as a SWAT Team Leader. “Often in other structures, once an officer or team trains at that location one time, by the end of the day they memorize the floor plan. After that any training is not as beneficial, because it’s not an ‘unknown’ situation.
“With the moveable interior walls available in the Tactical Training System’s structure, we have the ability to create different angles. That creates unique tactical problems that are essential for keeping my SWAT team at a constant state of readiness.”
Agencies Use Training Center
As a regional training center, the Fresno operation gets students from both throughout the state of California and nationwide.
“We generally see around 500 different agencies represented throughout the year training here,” says Hoagland. “Our tac house is used in nearly all of our exercise or tactical proficiency classes. That structure takes a beating.”
Classes taught at the tac house include Active Shooter Response, Search Warrant Execution, Tactical Deployments, K9 Operations, Breaching, Basic Interior Searching, Low Light/No Light, Patrol Rifle, Force-On-Force Scenarios, Critical Incident Articulation, Undercover Operations, and many more.
The facility is also rented to allied agencies that conduct their own training. In addition, the Fresno Police Department has contracts with more than 20 different law enforcement agencies that use the tac house and sniper tower. These agencies include Fresno County Sheriffs, Fresno County Probation, the FBI, HSI, DOJ, ATF, California Dept. of Corrections, and the U.S. Military (specifically the California Air National Guard).
Outside instructors are also using the tac house and sniper tower for their Advanced Tactical Solutions, Basic and Advanced POST Approved SWAT Sniper and Precision Marksmen courses. In addition to all these training activities, the Fresno SWAT team trains two days each month on the structures, plus tactical and rescue teams have their training times. Courses can include Light-Sound Diversionary Device Training, Armored Vehicle Operations, Elevated and Platform Rescues, and Airborne Rescues from Helicopter Platforms.
Training Day and Night
With training underway a majority of the days in Fresno, Hoagland relates that nighttime training is also offered. “Night training offers a unique perspective and different tactical problems due to low light/no light situations,” says Hoagland. “No matter what the lighting situation is, the Tactical Training Systems facilities provide our team members with as realistic a training experience as it can be, considering the added impact of force-on-force, breachable and reusable doors, etc.
“Without a doubt, the tac house from Tactical Training Systems that we have is one of the most important assets in our training program.”
Made of all-American steel, the only unanticipated drawback Hoagland has experienced with the tac house and sniper tower comes with the changing climate in Fresno. As summer weather conditions grow hotter year-after-year, the steel structure interiors and roof are also getting hotter.
To combat the situation, and even make it work as a training exercise, swamp coolers and ventilation systems are being added to the structures. This will provide for more training time inside the buildings. Another enhancement being made includes the addition of fire alarms and speaker systems to simulate a more stressful environment for specific train evolutions. Finally, 2x4s and plywood have been added in certain areas to increase the sturdiness of temporary walls during training.
“We’re always thinking of ways to creatively enhance the training experience,” says Hoagland. “Tactical Training Systems has provided us with two great base structures that are holding up exceptionally well. When we come up with unique improvements to ‘change up’ the training experience, then we all win.”