Airmen learn to recognize, respond to threats at driving course

Staff Sgt. Brian Hill
Kaiserslautern American

The tires of the mud-covered Opel Vectra spin on wet pavement and the sedan launches toward a 90-degree turn with speed. The instructor in the passenger seat firmly tells the student driver to wait for instructions before deviating from the collision course.

The driver is white-knuckling the wheel and the two passengers in the back seat –fellow students – are starting to feel uneasy. At the last possible second, the instructor shouts, “NOW!” The student turns the wheel to the right and slams in the clutch and brake pedals. The car skids to a stop two feet from the cones.

Everything worked out. No cones harmed. The little engine grumbles in idle and all is quiet for a second before the instructor says, “good,” and tells the student to drive on to the next trial, a slalom course.

The driver is happy to comply; he’s having a great time putting the car through this fast-paced obstacle course.

“When do you get to treat a car like this?” says the driver as he hits second gear, accelerating towards the slalom as fast as the little sedan will move.

The instructor in the passenger seat – a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations – is providing some follow-up instruction from the three-hour morning classroom course, but mostly is just allowing the students to get the feel of the car while pushing it to its limits.

The training, called the Anti-terrorism Driving Course, is an intense, one-day course teaching students how to recognize and respond to threats while behind the wheel.

New to Ramstein, the course is taught by the AFOSI Detachment 501 – Joint Protective Services Detail – who provide morning classroom time at their offices in the U.S. Air Forces in Europe compound and the remainder of the day in the cars dealing with the cone obstacles on the far side of the flightline.
“Drivers learn to recognize a threat and respond to it,” said Special Agent Shawn Simonton, special agent in charge at the detachment. “They get a full afternoon of pretty heavy driving.

“The tires talk to you,” he continued. “We show them how much a car can safely take.”

***image1***The course is scheduled on an as-needed basis and ideally has 12 students per day. It is now offered at Ramstein because the detachment was finally able to secure the needed driving space.

“Ramstein is a very busy place with a high ops tempo,” said Special Agent Tom Odgers, head driving instructor at the detachment. “It took us a long time to find an appropriate area to conduct the training and then coordinate it with base operations so that our use of the area would not impair any other missions.”

The four driving instructors assigned to the detachment stay very busy traveling all over the USAFE area of responsibility offering this course.

According to Agent Simonton, the course is conducted for many different drivers: wing commanders, flag officers, embassy staff, police and convoy drivers are just some of the types of people who’ve gone through the course. The classroom portion of the course teaches driving theory. In addition, the instructors detail how and why vehicles are positioned as they are in different types of convoys.

The driver training is modeled after studies of actual attack scenarios, and the training can be adapted to specific situations students may encounter. Rain or shine, the course is intended to simulate the driving conditions students find in their day-to-day duties, said Agent Simonton.

According to Agent Odgers, the course consists of multiple obstacles, each obstacle designed to simulate real world driving conditions including negotiating blind turns, emergency stops and dangerous traffic situations.

“Sometimes when you get home from work, you realize you were so lost in thought while driving that you can’t even remember driving home,” said Agent Odgers. “This obstacle training can really help students understand the importance of maintaining awareness while driving. ”

In addition, the final part of the course includes instructors placing the students in a simulated attack. These scenarios include road blocks, kidnapping attempts, IED simulations and actually bumping the student driver’s vehicles, attempting to send them out of control.

Plastic handguns and rifles as well as paintball guns are sometimes used to add to the experience of dealing with a threat during the driving portion. And the 18 special agents and security forces members who make up Det. 501 know how to bring realism to training scenarios. Their primary mission is to provide personal protection to senior U.S. and foreign dignitaries throughout the European Command area of responsibility.

This AFOSI detachment, the only unit of its kind in the Air Force, begun shortly after an unsuccessful terrorist attack on the USAFE commander in the late 1980s.  The unit encompasses personnel from OSI, and select members detailed from the 435th Security Forces Squadron. This joint concept provides them the flexibility they need to provide the best possible protective support with the minimum amount of manpower. 

The instructors are required to attend a six-day intensive instructor course provided by International Training Incorporated in Richmond, Va. In addition, instructors are required to teach a class under supervision.

This training can be scheduled through AFOSI Det. 501 by calling 480-5506. Interested groups should remember that training is only provided to those who require anti-terrorism driving by virtue of their duties or position.

Read the entire story at Ramstein’s Web site,