Crash course in defensive driving

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sarah Martinez
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
"It's basically an ambush from hell and you all are going to experience it," said Ken DeVries, 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron defensive driving training instructor.

The defensive driving exercise which took place on the Eglin Range, Fla., July 23, is part of the tactical force protection module during the Air Force Special Operations Training Center's Air Commando Baseline Course.

The exercise was designed to teach the students how to recognize and respond to threats while operating a vehicle in a deployed environment.

The route design was in the shape of a cross, which the instructors referred to as the "iron cross". Students had to enter the cross, back up in either direction and high tail it out of there, without knocking down any of the cones or spending too much time in either of the cross sections.

But that wasn't the only challenge. When the students drove straight to the end of the cross, they were met with heavy simulated round fire from hidden adversaries, played by 1st Special Operation Support Squadron Range Support flight opposition forces members.

"It's a new feeling to know that the way you perform means life or death to everyone else," said Airman 1st Class Gabriel Eloe, 1st Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron physical therapy technician and one of the students.

"It was an intense drill," said Capt. Hector Aponte, 1st Special Operations Support Squadron certified registered nurse anesthetist who was one of the trainees. "Recognizing the threat and having a keen sense of awareness were critical while being in the driver's seat."

All the students were broken up into teams made up of one driver, one navigator and two scouts/shooters, and every student had the chance to practice each role. The driver was the only one in the team who was not allowed to shoot back at the adversaries.

"The driver doesn't get to shoot because he needs to focus his energy on getting out of the situation once the car takes on fire," said Mr. DeVries. "If the driver gets shot, it's game over for everyone."

The vehicles were civilian vehicles provided by a contract vendor.

"The contractor delivers the vehicles to where the training is going to take place and he makes sure the vehicles keep running and that the tires are changed," said Rodney Rapp, Air Force Special Operations Command Special Tactics Training Squadron combat aviation advisor.

The exercise was taught to give the students the tools needed to survive a vehicle attack. The students learned how to distinguish a threat and react appropriately. With this new skill they students will be even more fit to deploy.