News: Guard soldiers train Clovis Police Department units on newly acquired MRAP vehicles
By Staff Sgt. Tina Villalobos
224th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs
CAMP ROBERTS, Calif. — Soldiers of the 1072nd Transportation Company, of Fresno, Calif. made use of their critical skill sets, knowledge of equipment and battle-hardened professionalism in January, when they provided crucial training to the City of Clovis Police Department.
The Clovis Police department recently obtained a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle from the U.S. Army’s surplus war inventory.
The roots of this intergovernmental cooperative training effort began with one Guardsman’s connection to his Clovis, Calif., community.
“It came about because luckily, one of the SWAT [Special Weapons and Tactics] team members, Chris Berna, is actually my neighbor,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Brusellas, of Clovis, Calif. “We coached our sons’ football team together. One day he said, 'Guess what—we got this big tank thing. I think it’s Army. What do you know about it?' Once I saw it, I said, 'Everything.'”
Due to the questions his neighbor was asking, Brusellas knew that comprehensive, hands-on training would be necessary for the safety of his local police department and his community.
“I was in those vehicles three to four times per week,” said Brusellas. “I know exactly how they operate. My number one concern is safety. I was in small villages with those things. I have witnessed rollovers, and I wanted to help prevent something like that from happening to my friend and neighbor.”
Because the Army National Guard mission encompasses both state and federal duties, Guard members may be called upon at any time to assist their local communities in times of disaster or rescue operations. Opportunities for intergovernmental training provide awareness of tactics used by other organizations, exchange of ideas, and familiarization for future cooperative endeavors.
“I am the course manager and I organized this whole thing,” said Brusellas. “But, I have two of the best instructors that I could have asked for in Staff Sgt. Carnahan and Staff Sgt. Burton. Those guys have been amazing, and the plethora of knowledge that they obtained during our mobilization have caused the six members [of Clovis Police Department] that were chosen to take part in this program to rethink their vision of what this truck can do and how they can be effective.”
Staff Sgt. Joshua Carnahan and Staff Sgt. Alfred Burton are graduates of the Army’s official MRAP training course, with Carnahan having taken an extended course to include the technical elements of the vehicle’s operation and maintenance. Each of the three 1072nd Transportation Company soldiers has experience utilizing the MRAP in a combat environment.
Clovis SWAT and narcotics officers discussed the significant ways in which the safety of the community and its officers will be enhanced due to obtaining an MRAP and implementing it into their protective equipment inventory. The MRAP does not provide any additional weaponry—it does, however, provide an array of additional protective measures for officers and citizens, as Sgt. Rod Lichti, watch commander, SWAT team leader, and primary training team member explained.
“Often times we have to evacuate neighbors in a hostile environment with a rifle threat,” said Lichti. “We used to try to sneak them out through the bushes; now we can back an armored vehicle up right to their door and they can go right out of the house and into the armored vehicle and we can drive them away safely.
There is a turret on top of the MRAP where an officer can get up there with protected cover and shoot gas into a house, or they can get out of it and be behind it and shoot from there. But, where ever you drive it, you have a hardened cover position that no civilian rounds can penetrate. It will make our job a whole lot safer.”
David Martin, a detective with Clovis Police Department in the narcotics unit and a SWAT team operator lauded the safety and tactical advantages of their newly acquired MRAP.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 16 years now,” said Martin. “With the MRAP, we can provide a kind of safe harbor between us and an armed individual. It will assist us with officer rescues. Now, we can actually park the MRAP in front of an injured person, and in between an armed suspect, and be able to perform that rescue in a safe environment; thanks to the armor of the MRAP.”
Both the law enforcement trainees and their soldier counterparts benefited from the MRAP training.
“These guys have been exceptional,” said Lichti. “They are definitely subject matter experts. They have not only learned how to use these things through their training, but both of our instructors have used armored vehicles in Afghanistan and Iraq. So, they understand it from the academic side, and they also understand it from the real application in the field. I have been doing SWAT training for about 20 years, so when I evaluate these guys; I have a little bit of experience to base it on.”
Martin expressed his appreciation of the training provided by the three soldiers of 1072nd Transportation Company, “The most beneficial thing I’ve learned so far is how to operate the MRAP safely. It’s very heavy. It’s top heavy. You can’t get in there and just drive. The Army staff that’s been assigned to us has been exceptional with the training that they’ve provided, and we’re very appreciative of that. It’s not like a 2,500-pound car that stops when you press the brake. You need to learn how it operates and the safe distance of traveling and how it is going to react when you get into a situation. You can only learn that by driving; and you can only get that information from somebody who is trained in it.”
The soldiers learned different perspectives and tactics from their students as well.
“It’s been a great training experience. I think it went pretty good on both sides [their side and our side],” said Carnahan. “I would like to see this continue in the future.”
Burton agreed, “This intergovernmental training is a brand new thing that’s happening. This is a first time experience for Staff Sgt. Carnahan and me. It is pretty cool. We can bring them here and let them get some first-hand experience on some of these things. There are also a lot of other techniques and tactics that they use that will kind of get us out of continuously using the same tactics. So, talking amongst each other, we get new ideas on both sides.”