Monday, January 27, 2014
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A secret in Logan County: Live-ammo police training site recognized nationally in the profession

Part 1: A tour of 'The Range'

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[January 27, 2014]  Late last week, Logan County Sheriff Steve Nichols and Ron Yanor of Adamax Tactical Academy offered local media an opportunity to do a walk-through at the firearms training center Nichols refers to as "The Range."

The facility, which was designed by Yanor, is located near Lincoln in a heavily wooded area. Nichols said the location is not widely publicized, though there are members of the public who know where it is.

Going into the Range, the best way to describe the site is to picture something from an extreme survivalist movie where there is a compound with various outbuildings, shooting ranges and targets.

All of this is set in bottom ground with hills and trees surrounding it. At the first stop there is a double-wide portable classroom and target ranges. Several hundred feet into the woods is a 4,000-square-foot building constructed of railroad ties. This building is where those in training will practice making entry into possibly volatile situations.

The shooting building is designed with doors on every wall. Panels are moved from time to time during exercises to block one or more doors, making the rooms and the floor plan different for each exercise. Inside each room, outdoor furniture and other items are used to simulate what an officer might encounter upon entering a home, business or school.

On one side of the building is a long hallway about the width of what one would encounter in a school. For the most part, the building is without a roof, but in this hallway a portion of it is roofed. Yanor explained they do this because changes in light can play tricks on the eyes, and they want officers to understand what is going to happen when they go from, for example, the bright sunlight outside directly into a darkened area.

During trainings in the shoot house, various targets are used. The targets are photographic images of people in different situations. As trainees go through the rooms, there will be images of innocent people who are hiding from a shooter or trying to escape the building, and there will be images of the "bad guys." In the exercise the officers have to quickly examine the image and determine if they should shoot.

In a real-life situation, a second of hesitation can cost an officer his life, and being too hasty can result in innocent victims being injured. Officers must in a split-second examine the subject and make a decision that is correct.

In the portable classroom, Yanor pulled out a couple of these images to show an example of what an officer might find, not only in the shoot house but also in real life.

The first image included two males, an adult and a child of about 10. The adult is holding the boy in front of him with his hand on the boy's throat, and in the other hand he holds a pistol. In that particular image, it is pretty easy to see who the bad guy is. The second one Yanor showed was not as clear-cut.

In the second image there are two adults: one male, one female. The male in the photo is large and muscular; the female short and slim. To those who lack the proper training, the focus goes to the male in the photo, as many stereotypically will assume the male is the aggressor. However, when given time to study the picture, it is the female who is holding a gun to the head of the male, not vice versa.

Yanor said that in training inside the shoot house, they take a "crawl, walk, run" approach. The first time a team goes through the shoot house, they do a walk-through with an instructor. The second time, the trainees go in solo, but at a slower pace, allowing them time to evaluate what they see and act accordingly. Then finally, the trainees go in at a quick pace, making split-second decisions as they would in real life.

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The exercises are also filmed so that afterward instructors and trainees can evaluate the exercise and see firsthand what went well and what might have gone wrong.

Talking about the importance of this type of training, the subject of school violence came into play. Nichols and Yanor said that having live exercises will help officers if they should be called into something like a school shooting. Yanor said that during training, officers do exercises with a variety of team members and also do one-man exercises.

He drove home that this was important because an officer may arrive on the scene first with backup a few minutes away. "You know what that officer is going to do," Yanor said. "He's going to go in, and he may be the only one in the building to clear it." Because of this, those first responders need to know how to work alone, but they also need to know how to work as a group.

Nichols also emphasized that the live experience is better than working with simulations in situation rooms. He said that when standing around a table talking about what to do in a given situation, it is easier to think it out and see the entire situation.

Having taken the training himself, Nichols also said that during live training, he felt the adrenaline and the tension of the unknown. He said for him it was as close to the real thing as anyone could get.

It may be hard to imagine, but the training center in Lincoln is known all around the United States as a top-notch facility for tactical training. Inside the classroom area, the walls are covered with badges from the various police departments and other law enforcement bodies that have taken training at The Range.

Included in the wall of badges are those from as far away as California and also the Southern states. The Range has also been the location for special training for many university security and police departments, including the University of Illinois, Illinois State, Eastern Illinois University and several others.

In the classroom area, the setup is pretty simple: tables and chairs for class time and a coffeepot to help keep people energized. The room also houses several special pieces of equipment that officers eventually learn how to use on the range and in the shoot house.

Some of the more interesting items are the large black shields used for riot control and a special explosive device used to open locked doors.

The riot shields look very much like what are seen on television. They are large, heavy, black, bulletproof body shields with a thin window for seeing out. What one doesn't see on television is that the shields weigh about 50 pounds. Most often a police officer holds the shield using a hook that goes over the arm below the elbow and another that is gripped in the hand. While holding the shield with the one arm, officers oftentimes are also holding a weapon in the other.

The explosive device used for breaching locked doors is specifically designed with a charge just strong enough to blow a door. Yanor explained that the devices can be sized to fit the need, including blowing holes in 6-inch concrete.


In Part 2, Yanor and Nichols will explain how this type of training center came to be in Logan County and how all of this has been accomplished without one dollar of taxpayer money.


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