MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
On June 7, 2022, the sound of gunshots rang down the halls 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 put their use of force reasoning to the test.
This annual training plays an essential role in the readiness of the 908th SFS members' ability to make split-second decisions with as much information as possible. However, training does not start in the simulator. It begins in a classroom, where students study the proper definition of force and are refreshed on court cases such as the U.S. Supreme Court case Graham v. Connor (1989), teaching students how and when to use force.
Once that's completed, students test their knowledge in the simulator. Its five panoramic screens can create realistic situations controlled by the trainers, putting students in various conditions where they must interact with a potential subject. When a subject refuses to respond to a command, the trainee must react appropriately, trusting their training.
"The biggest takeaway is for students to understand how and when to use force," said Master Sgt. Thomas Meadows, Defender and noncommissioned officer in charge of training for 908th SFS. "My goal is that they're comfortable with their training, so when they get in a chaotic situation, they're able to use it proficiently."
A two-part training that civilian police officer and 908th SFS member Senior Airman Amber Clemente finds only makes her a sharper police officer.
"I think every situation as a cop is a new situation," she said. "So training for the job just brings you up a 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 the experience," said Senior Airman Ricardo Arias, 908th SFS member. "It's not something you're going to get anywhere else. You get what feels like hands-on training in the real world without the risk of injury."
Use of force training gives the 908th SFS members perspective on situation analysis, threat level monitoring and responding with the proper force available. Training events like this, combined with tools like the virtual reality simulator, ultimately equip the members of the 908 SFS to be ready for action whenever it may come.
"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."