ITAS Exercise Sentinel AAR: Part 2

PART 2

When we say realism the first things that come to mind are the kit, then the situations for the participants. The site on a whole also comes into it but one thing that is often forgotten is the interior areas of the sites. It’s almost always the case that rooms are made up of a door, windows and a table and chairs if you’re lucky, and if you’re hitting a room that OPFOR are living out of camp beds and bags, but this midnight raid was nothing I could’ve really anticipated. Prior to our arrival, the residence was just that, a fully dressed suburban house complete with TVs, sofas, beds, cabinets and wardrobes. Oh, and carpets. This really played a part building on the depth and immersion for the people who hit the house. After the location had been made secure it quickly became apparent that there was no one in by this stage, but to confirm our suspicions we had a Belgian Malinois go through the building checking for anything we might’ve missed, be it people or explosives. The K9 support added an entirely new dimension to the weekend, participants can easily cast a border between real life and the weekend warrior mentality, but the dogs are hardwired to switch between work and play on command. This meant you had to give them a wide berth especially when they were doing their thing, searching buildings or being utilised in an assault capability. For the purpose of the exercise the dogs weren’t to be used as so called ‘Attack Dogs’ but for searches after raids and so on. Whilst the copious amounts of firearms had been removed from the property we did come across some notes accidentally left behind by the suspects, another thing that intel were to look over through the night and gather some useful information on the terrorists.

Overnight nothing of any major interest happened, my team did an hour and a half on standby and went back to catch up on sleep, then the next morning everyone was kitted up in assault rig, and awaiting further information from Intelligence. We’d also been briefed on a kidnapping of one of the specialists in the field which had been captured on some drone footage, also confirming that the suspects had carried out the snatch. You could really feel the tensions were rising throughout.

Mid morning my CTSFO Unit was put back together allowing us to run through some more room clearance drills, this was great practice as it meant we could combine drills from the previous day and run together properly in different situations. One issue with this was the slight differences in teachings, IE Having your carbine pointed upwards or downwards, or moving past the door before entry, but this meant we had multiple techniques we could adapt to situations out of training, and would be put to the test later on that day.

EXECUTE

By early afternoon everyone was placed on standby as an attack was now imminent, the situation had been getting increasingly volatile over the duration of thep weekend and since the capture of one of the intelligence officers, the midnight raid and the increased police presence we were expecting some form of attack. Boiling point was eventually reached, and we could hear gunshots ring out from across the site. Each team was sent to the building and were put in charge of a specific entry point and area to clear, before linking up to progress down through the rest of the floors and deal with the threat. By the time I got to the second floor one team had already pushed down the hallway so we followed suit, made sure each room was checked and then began to chain hostages down through the building. One suspect was arrested and all others were shot, with all hostages evacuated safely into the hands of the police for medical treatment and questioning. The final assault was an overwhelming success with only a handful of the entry team being hit, so we all returned to the HQ to top up on fluids and prep for the next run.

Seeing as that was our immediate response, the Staff allowed us to run the assault a second time; this time with our planned response. The SFOs moved infront of the target building with their vehicles, which was quickly met with one of the terrorists engaging them with a blank firing pistol, and in turn was efficiently dealt with by the SFOs. Special Forces and CTSFO then moved past and made entry to the building. This time we were to move with Red Team to the side of the building and sweep through to the centre from where we will meet the other two teams, and then assault the two floors simultaneously with the other two teams beneath us. Upon moving into a large room full of lockers, I turned to see a male pointing a Self Loading Pistol at me, before I could issue commands I could hear the shots impacting on the wall behind me, so began to return fire. He fell to the floor and once I was sure there was no further immediate threat, we pushed forward to make his weapon safe and continue with the engagement.

It was at this point the Airsoft side of things really do dissipate, when there’s people utilising blank firers on both sides, and military grade distraction devices going off next to you, you can’t actually hear the usual sounds you get with Airsoft, combined with the screams of injured civilians played by crisis actors you honestly do get dropped into the situation. Making it to the top of the stairs, I was shot in the corridor, and promptly dragged out of the line of fire by my teammates. Hostages are quickly removed from danger then taken down to the police triage centre, and SF medics attend to the wounded Assaulters.

Once I was back up and the contact had ceased, SFOs were to go through the building and check everything for evidence. Part of this is accounting for any X-Rays that had been killed, so I was to report to the hostile I had engaged in the Locker Room. Here my weapon was seized and I was taken over to be interviewed by one of the officers as a means of justifying my use of lethal force, and for those involved in this process it was a nice addition to the end of this section of the exercise.

PURPLE HAZE

The third and final assault proved to be the trickiest. Staff had barricaded many of the rooms meaning Method of Entry (MOE) kit had to be used, and unbeknown to the entry team smoke grenades were to be deployed. By pure chance I had decided to run my Respirator for this assault, and it definitely came in good use as purple smoke came pouring through the door and into the stairwell. Pushing through the smoke more of my SF teammates were already in a room attempting to apprehend a suspect but one hostile hadn’t been spotted and began to drop some of the other guys, I quickly dealt with him, cleared his weapons, patted him down and cuffed him and moved on to clear the rest of the rooms with the other CTSFOs.

Over the three raids we did exceptionally well as a force. In some cases we were slowed by IEDs blocking corridors and no shieldmen on hand to advance with, but considering a couple of the Suspects were taken into custody, others killed and all but one hostages saved (the one hostage had an IED in hand and was encroaching on SF members so Assaulters had no choice but to stop the threat), we were very successful. The assets we had available to us at this one were second to none, the police played their role to a tee, to the point where one of the guys on OPFOR was in full belief that he was being stopped by real Armed Police, and the training from members of E27 and Co. had us all looking somewhat professional in my opinion. Once again major thanks goes to Andy from Snook Snaps for getting many of the images you’ve seen in Part 1 & 2! I can’t thank the staff at ITAS enough for pulling off such a large scale exercise with plenty for everyone to sink their teeth into.

Cheers, Chris.

Advertisements

ITAS Exercise Sentinel AAR: Part 1

The best thing I’ve done even remotely relative to Airsoft is an ITAS Mock Counter Terrorism Exercise. The levels of immersion are second to none, the assets, occurrences and staff offer an experience in which normal Military Simulation events simply can’t offer, mainly because the core mechanics of Airsoft don’t come into it at all until at the end (in most cases), and even then they are stripped down furthermore and then built upon with realistic consequences. In this article I’ll go over my perspective of the Exercise, the highlights throughout and what makes ITAS events so fulfilling.

As you will likely know from my previous posts, I’m currently going down the line of a CTSFO Impression, the UK’s elite police firearms unit capable of dealing with terror incidents aswell as assisting local forces with armed crime response. In light of this there were a few positions available for the exercise, SFO (Specialist Firearms Officers), CTSFO (Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers) and Special Forces. At past events the largest contingent of police we amassed was 5, including four SFOs and one CTSFO, in that case played by myself. More emphasis was placed upon the police this time, to offer more immersion for the SF personnel and also allow another way of obtaining information, something that proved extremely effective, and something we will get onto later in this piece.

10-36

Once cordons were formed around the HQ, Special Forces teams were waved in and we were all setup, we headed through for the briefing to get an understanding of an unfolding situation in the local area involving smugglers which were bringing a broad range of weaponry into the UK. It didn’t take long for us to realise the task at hand. If you read my previous ITAS AAR you’ll know that we were dealing with a siege situation, so everything was based around one building but when there’s a good few square miles, multiple buildings and the general public to deal with, the difficulty of containing the threat increases tenfold.

Due to the numbers the CTSFO element were split between the three SF groups and in turn into their rotations consisting of Standby, Blue Skills and Stand Down/Training. My first outing was Blue Skills, and were tasked with RECCE of a residential building suspected of being used by the smugglers. By the time we arrived on site the darkness had rolled in, plus our advance to the house was through a forest so visibility was minimal, thankfully we had Night Vision and Thermal Optics at our disposal which came in good use for certain individuals to lead on with. Even on approach I quickly spotted movement outside the building which later developed into someone getting into a vehicle and driving right past the team and myself. This was shortly followed by two vans, of which we managed to get a full registration and partial registrations for, something which was relayed back to intelligence for analysis when we returned back to the Headquarters.

After our Reconnaissance of the house we were put onto the training rotation to sharpen up on skills and get everyone moving as a force, whilst this was happening the SFO Team, compromised of 8 men in 4 vehicles went to investigate the house we had been watching. The best way for you to get an idea of the next few minutes is to hear it from one of the police team that were there, so I’m gonna let Tom of E27 go into detail for you from the perspective of the role he was fulfilling.

HARD STOP

Thanks, Chris. Quick background, I’m Tom from the UKSF Impressionist Callsign E27, however my ‘other impression’ lends itself to that of a Metropolitan Police ARV Crewmember.

During this Exercise I was running as Operational Firearms Commander for the SFO elements, manning Trojan 2 with one other. At around Midnight, we had been tasked by our Police Liason Officer to take a guy called ‘Colin’, who we’d never met and were just told that he was attached to the Intelligence Team, to the detached house that’d been under surveillance by Chris and the others in his rotation.

He joined us in Trojan 2, and the only thing ‘Colin’ said during the journey was ‘When we arrive, I need you to knock on the door and tell any occupants that a noise complaint has been received into the 999 system’.

This was slightly bizarre as when we arrived the house was in absolute silence, with only a few lights on within the property. He gave us the nod, and having scattered the other two Trojan crews that had traveled with us, Andy knocked the door.

Silence.

What on Earth was going on, and why are my guys knocking on this door. And seriously, who is this bloke called ‘Colin’.

Andy knocked a further two times, with the exact same results as before. George, our Tactical Firearms Commander, shot me what can only be described as a very confused look.

I turned to the guy who, for the purpose of the rest of the article will be named simply, ‘C’, who had now donned a rather ominous police-badged brown baseball cap and produced an MP5 from under his jacket, who smirked and said ‘come on then’. He then proceeded to a side door, and gave me the nod to make entry.

Leaving the other Trojan Crews in situ around the house, containing our perimeter, Andy and myself followed ‘C’ to the secreted side door where he had already begun to pick the lock, with zero light whatsoever.

Not knowing who this guy is, or what we’re actually doing here, we recalled our perimeter to give us a smaller presence on the ground and several of us followed him into the house.

Stepping into each of the rooms, both upstairs and down, a disturbing amount of illegal firearms, improvised explosive devices, and tactical kit including helmets and body armour were littered throughout.

After ensuring the house was clear, ‘C’ asked us to take as many pictures and videos, with commentary, as we could fit on our phones. The images and videos would be passed onto the Intelligence Team as soon as we got back – and these would certainly be of interest.

‘C’, in a strange whispered shout, told us to extract from the house. We’d been in there for a few more minutes than he’d have liked.

We left the house, leaving everything exactly as we had found it, so as not to arise any suspicion from the occupants of the house that could rearm Rwanda.

Driving down the road back to the Operational HQ, we saw headlights coming towards our convoy. This was odd.

Trojan 1, who were leading our cars out of there, shouted up on the Firearms channel that the car had stopped, moved, and stopped again and that they weren’t happy.

Trojan 2 and 3 held back slightly to gain the bigger picture – at this point we’re really only watching for runners from the car. Is this a few kids who have TWOCed their mums car? Am I going to be running after someone who is probably younger, fitter, and wearing significantly less body armour? Please not now. I’m not quite in the mood for running.

I saw Trojan 1 floor it, you could hear the first gear redline from our slightly relaxed and held back position. It became apparent that something was absolutely not right. This is the kind of move only pulled when presented with an immediate threat.

The next we saw were two males walking down the road towards us, and the crew of Trojan 1 dragging a male from the believed ‘bandit car’.

Noticing the mobiles in their hands, pointed directly at us, filming the cars, Andy booted our BMW towards them. Blues are on, and before we fully realised we’re out the cars with a combination of batons and tasers pointed at these guys.

‘ARMED POLICE! GET YOUR HANDS OUT! DO IT NOW!’

This was about the only thing I remember shouting as I approached a bearded male, with a grey full zip hoody on.

He’s not complying with my requests, and doesn’t appear phased by the six blokes in black Crye who are now cutting around him and his friends.

I tucked my baton into my body armour, and get him cuffed up. I need to get control of this guy, as none of my lads have come to join me. As it transpires, the others were having a slight issue with another chap who was being obtuse, to say the least.

‘Is everyone secure?’

Reassuring ‘YES!’ answers all round, meant we had controlled whatever this situation was, before it had gone haywire. Now we just had to figure out what was going on here – and why were these sketchy bearded blokes driving towards the house we’d only just scarpered out of?

Quick fire questions, met with silence. Who are you? Any ID? Where are you going?

The only noises were the diesel engines chuntering away, and guys catching their breaths after a moment of unexpected excitement.

George, as TFC, went for a quiet chat with ‘C’. Who knows why he’s back involved, but he’s now ditched his MP5 and is swanning around our suspects in his odd coloured baseball cap.

George came round, took photos of these guys, and gave us the order to release them back to their vehicle.

We had no idea who these guys were, why we’d stopped them, or why we’d consequently let them go. All within ten minutes. George said we’d be travelling on blues to the Op HQ as we had a private briefing room ready and waiting, and all manner of people from the Intelligence Team to SF Commanders.

What on Earth have we just been involved in, and why are we stepping into a dynamic briefing with blokes who would all tell me their name was ‘John’.

This had absolutely 100% been the weirdest hour I’ve ever spent on one of these Exercises.

BREACHER UP

From the intel we had received during the SFO excursion, the assault teams were put on immediate standby for an assault on the property. As this was still a police matter and the suspects had links to Terror organisations, the CTSFO element would be leading a raid with the support of Special Forces. This meant we were first through the door, with SF forming an inner cordon to stop anyone trying to escape by foot, and SFOs were down the road to stop anyone escaping by vehicle. The way it turned out in the stack I became pointman so it was down to myself to make initial entry to the property, so as we got to the door and I felt the squeeze on my shoulder, I grabbed the handle, and pushed the door. It took a couple of attempts as it was slightly jammed but after a quick shoulder barge, we were in, followed by a crescendo of ‘ARMED POLICE!’

END OF PART 1

Project Gecko Air Assault 2018 in Review

I guess I’ve always had an insatiable love for flight, stemming from a young age watching ‘80s Documentaries of Apache Gunships and Kiowas on video tapes, seeing them in action at airshows and taking my first flight in a helicopter back in 2006. Ten years later I completed my AFF Qualification to become a skydiver, in 2017 I flew a Robinson R44 Helo, but there was always something missing, fusing all the above to create an incomparable Tactical atmosphere. I know there’s Airsoft/MilSim Events especially in the US that allow participants to take to the skies in Little Bird helos and shoot down out of them, but I guess I was looking for something more than that, so thanks to a recommendation from Kieru who participated in the course back in 2017, I booked onto Project Gecko Air Assault 2018.

Day 1

The course is run over three days, the first two being spent in and around the Czech Capital City of Prague, and the third in the Slovakian Municipality of Trenčín. Friday was training day; kicked off with a classroom session detailing what we were set to do over the weekend combined with safety around helicopters, different deployment and extraction methods, the situations these methods would be utilised in and ergonomics surrounding different aircraft.

Shortly after we took to the tower, literally jumping straight into the Fast Roping. Initial briefs were made on how to take the rope, how to brake on the rope and how to land safely, this was then scaled up to about a meter, then 3 meters and finally approximately 10 meters where we’d be deploying from the Mil Mi8 ‘Hip’ on the Sunday. To tell you the truth this was rather tough considering with a helicopter you’re not worrying about hitting a wall on your way down, an issue you have to contend with on the tower. I would sometimes step out too far from the platform, causing the rope to swing to and fro with me on it and collide with the tower wall, all the while trying to ensure you’re not landing on anyone, not going too fast and maintain altitude awareness. This was especially prevalent from the 10m platform as you would spend more time on the rope and occasionally catch your feet on a lower window. Speeding up your decent would alleviate this – but at no point did I feel unsafe, everything was carried out in a controlled manner. By mid day we were simulating the speed of which a full team should be deploying then the formations we should be forming once we were on the ground. I’d made a few changes to my personal admin and equipment; the first aid kit on my back had been relocated as my rifle would get caught up on it, I’d get off the rope and move to a 360 defensive position with the rest of the team, but struggle to get my carbine up in time, of course. I’d also learnt to tape up my finger ends as the sheer heat generated in friction between the rope and my gloves was enough to blister all of them on my right hand. Before the end of the day we were also shown how to correctly attach to a SPIE rope system, something I’ll get back onto later on in this article.

Day 2

Saturday was preceded with a drive into the Czech countryside to partake in the Small Helicopter Tactics. Whilst waiting for the helicopter to arrive time was spent learning how to mark a landing zone with smoke, a marker panel or a flashcard, and then covering the main aspects of marshalling a helicopter in to land. It’s likely a force on the ground will have a better understanding of the landing zone moreso than the pilot due to the fact they’d have been there longer, so communications with aircrew and troops needs to be well rehearsed to ensure the safety of all involved aswell as the aircraft, if that goes down then you’re going nowhere. Split into pairs, one person was to enact the helicopter and the other a person on the ground. Whilst it may look silly from a distance it was an invaluable lesson which paid off in the end when we had to do it with a multimillion pound helicopter hovering meters away infront of us. Once the Helo, a Eurocopter EC120 had arrived we were briefed on safely getting in and out of the aircraft and using restraints, then we spooled up and began the infiltrations.

One of my many highlights from the weekend was coming into land at the first LZ, we were being dropped into a clearing which had a river running through it, which was flanked on either side by tall reeds. We turned towards the location of our team which was marked by one member holding the marker panel, and began our descent toward them, and as the distance decreased I could see the other team members in the grass. You do get a major ‘Vietnam movie’ vibe as the rotorwash pushes the grass back, everything is a bit hectic once you’ve got your restraint off and you’re charging towards the Team Leader then into defensive positions. We’d swapped with another unit who’d now boarded the Eurocopter and were beginning their exfil from the location. Grass and dust is flying up into your face, the deafening roar of the helicopter blasting out any chance of other noise in the area, it then turns towards the other LZ and backs away, the pilot then lifts the collective and the machine thunders overhead. The strangest silence then ensues.

Throughout the day many circuits were flown, dropping us off at different locations with a different landscape; open fields, long grass, dense woodland and next to lakes to get everyone thinking about the best course of action to take given the conditions. In most cases you’d already have guys on the deck so it was just a case of following the TL’s orders, but I wound up being in the first team to land on a couple of occasions so you had to pick out a suitable place to bed down, with good visibility of the landing zone so everything was ready for the next squads to arrive.

As the helicopter had been operating all morning the time came when it had to depart for fuel, so we were all inserted into a field to begin another stage of the course covering Small Unit Tactics. Whilst there was no OpFor it was good to brush up on these manoeuvres to both pass the time until the 120 came back, and get everyone working together as a force. This section covered basic patrol formations, initial response to combat, medical evacuation drills (and even a bayonet charge as a bit of fun!) Once the day in the field was over we departed on the journey to Slovakia to work alongside the Mi8 crew.

Day 3

I hadn’t properly jumped out of an aircraft that was still flying for about a year and a half, terminal velocity and a hard canopy opening put my skydiving days to what I hope is only a temporary rest following a dislocated shoulder, so the day at the airfield in Trenčín was both full of excitement and a bit of apprehension. I guess most of the apprehension I felt prior to the trip was quashed when I was doing the drills on the tower without any problems, but there’s always something there when you’re throwing yourself out of an old piece of Soviet engineering. After an induction with the aircraft the engines were started and we were on the second load. One major difference between the Mi8 and the Tower is the rope placement, we had a beam extending out on the tower so you could realistically reach out to the rope and slip off the platform with no hindrance, but on the Helo the rope is borderline flush with the door, meaning you take the rope, step out and around it, then hop off to avoid catching your hands on the bottom of the door on the way down. Like on the tower we started low and brought the altitude up, before we knew it we were jumping from the length of the rope, I’d imagine at about 12 meters high. It’s pretty intense to say the least, when you’re off the rope and running towards your team you’ll get to an area in the rotorwash were it stops blowing down and starts blowing out, so you really have to lean back to stop yourself from falling flat on your face.

After a few runs we were all in the Mi8 once again, this time the whole aircraft leapt forwards and began to pick up speed, then banked left and did a circuit of the airfield before coming to a halt over the DZ (Drop Zone). If you were to fast rope operationally you’d be flying into the area so this was done to simulate the journey onto the X. After lunch the aircraft was refuelled and refitted to take the SPIE Rig. SPIE stands for Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction, and serves the purpose of evacuating reconnaissance teams from hard to reach areas where helicopters can’t land, such as maritime vessels or densely forested areas. A large rope is slung beneath a rotary vehicle which is dropped to the ground, from which troops connect carabiners to a set of loops which fall down the side of the rope. Once ready the team will move to the dead centre of the hovering aircraft as it slowly gains altitude, and will then lift the patrol up and out of the area, usually to a safer area of which they can disconnect and board the helicopter as normal. Just make sure you get the top loop of the pair as being on the bottom doesn’t do your crotch any favours at all…

For the afternoon we made use of both the fast rope and the SPIE, a team were ferried out a couple clicks away from the DZ we’d been inserting into all morning, and roped to the deck. The crew then brought the Fast Rope back up, dropped the SPIE system and took a batch of five men back to the first DZ and dropped them off, then five of us hooked up and were taken to the 2nd zone. Once all groups had used the SPIE system the Mi8 landed and took on a full load to fast rope, I think I did about 4 sling loads under the Helo and uncountable Fast Ropes from different altitudes and different directions, but shortly the time came for the Mi8 to RTB. The end of the course was signalled with a steep takeoff, a bank around the airfield and a high speed low pass above the attendees.

The course is an incredible experience, something I’ve never actually seen open to civilians at all so it’s once in a lifetime if you have the interest. However I enjoyed it that much I’m considering making the trip again in 2019. I can’t thank the organisers enough for the time effort they’ve put in to make the course a success, from Eli at Project Gecko for the seminars on aspects of Air Assault and Small Unit Tactics, Tim of ParamedCZ for the medical cover (and running me about the place, that was greatly appreciated!), Zdenek of Hard Task especially for his work on the Saturday piloting the EC120. Special mentions go to Martijn and Erwin of Black Scorpions NLD for generally putting up with me, HCAV for the top standard photos from the event and of course all the attendees and staff that made the weekend one to remember.

For more information on Project Gecko’s upcoming courses visit http://www.projectgecko.info/#projectgecko.

Cheers, Chris.

ITAS Exercise Oxcart AAR

So now I’ve officially setup my blog I’m wanting to reinvigorate a couple of my favourite pieces, in this case a joint article I did with Andy from S23. This’ll cover the Kickstarter for the focus on my Counter Terror kit, and my thoughts on participating in such an immersive event.

So last year I was invited to take part in an ITAS Mock CT Exercise carrying out the role of a Counter Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officer, something truth be told I didn’t really know much about. I’d spotted very few images from previous exercises floating around the internet, and ever since I’d been massively interested in joining in on one, I just didn’t have the necessary gear to pull it off.

Until now! For this particular event they were looking for participants from the Airsoft/MilSim scene to enact the role of Armed Response Police Officers and Counter Terror Officers, and by this point my kit was shaping up nicely.Fast forward a month or two, and we’re being briefed on a developing siege situation in a school where terrorists had taken hostages. Being placed on the Police team we were at the forefront of all activity in the initial confrontations with the gunmen, so I was given a number of different taskings from Close Protection of a negotiation team, hostage handovers and manning an Urban OP on the perimeter of the target building.There was one instance when I was overlooking the building when a number of shots rang out, the rural OPs had been compromised and started taking fire. Running to get your rig and helmet on as a precaution is something I guess I’m not too used to in an average Airsoft game, and especially when those shots were from simulated blanks, it certainly lends itself to giving you a sense of urgency and added to the suspension of disbelief.After nightfall we decided to egress from the OP as we couldn’t get any more information regarding enemy activity, and I called it a day. After a remarkably good amount of sleep I awoke and was attached to Green Team, one of two ‘UKSF’ groups that had been on rotation as a QRF since the start of the event. I was briefed on the final assault plan and then went over to the hangar with the rest of the CT teams.There were plenty of occasions where we were put on immediate standby, such as when a media team went to interview the gunmen, or when tensions were rising in the target building. The call to go eventually came when boiling point was hit. To be honest I’m not perfectly sure what happened myself, there seemed to be a lot of screaming over the radio and supposedly a body had been seen outside the target building and we were in the vehicles before I could hear more.I’m going to gloss over the final assault I’m some respect, unfortunately I didn’t see much due to the section of the building I was in responsible for. One thing I can say is that an IED suspended off the ceiling in the entranceway to the building tends to put a halt on proceedings.Going into the building was rather painstaking as you could tell that the team wanted to push as much as possible to save the hostages so to start the room clearance was quite soggy. The pace picked up and the training kicked in though and the movements became much more fluid.As this was our Emergency Response, the organisers decided to run the assault again but utilising our deliberate plan, what we’d been planning for since the start of the exercise. Our half of the team came in from the same angle as last time but took it much slower and quieter than the initial run, to the point where the enemy didn’t actually know we were in their building until we’d cleared the ground floor, and started using flashbangs on the second floor. In your usual skirmish you get used to the shouts of other players and the occasional use of profanity from getting hit. However going into a room with screaming hostages makes everything so much more urgent.As the apprehension of the raid had worn off from the first assault there were no worries when taking down rooms this time. The mantra of ‘Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast’ was ingrained into people’s minds and we moved in as a force effortlessly, making good use of Blank Firing Grenades, GR20s and GR60s. X-Rays were dealt with according to how much threat they displayed, and hostages were most definitely not let out of sight.Pressing on with the assault I was hit in the leg, after some quick use of a Tourniquet I was back to it, and began to check hostages. After cuffing and patting them down, I began to move them to the triage point. All those captured were then laid down and checked for injuries, and once all were stabilised EndEx was called.It’s extremely rewarding to get to the end of a weekend with such a successful outcome after so much effort has been put in by all participants. Between the first assault and the second assault, we managed to slash the time down from 9 minutes to 7 minutes, our skills seemed to improve tenfold on the rerun.To finish off, it’s the most immersive event I’ve ever attended. So many assets were utilised from vehicles to crisis actors, and it lead to a prosperous ending for everyone. I’m most definitely due to attend more events like this, and people who’ve also attended them will be the same. I overheard some members of the CT team say they were moving away from MilSims as this is where it’s at.

Many thanks goes to Gaz and ITAS for running the the event, E27, Grey Fox and the other CT/Police members for making it such a brilliant weekend.

Photo Credit: Snook Snaps

Arc’teryx LEAF Naga Hoody and Atom Hoody Review

So I’ve decided to start a bit of a brand Spotlight with a series of reviews on certain items I own, mainly because I rate the kit so highly for its day to day use, but also it’s performance in tactical situations.

Arc’teryx is a brand we all know and love, not only producing clothing for thrill seekers and adventurers, but also the Military and Police community under their LEAF range (Law Enforcement – Armed Forces). Personally I was attracted to this side of things for the cross compatibility of use in both sectors, the general civilian midweek use at work and the random weekend excursions, IE the Mock Counter Terror Exercises I occasionally venture out to partake in. For this particular article I’ll go over two of the jackets I wear daily to work and so on, a bit of an overview on each, how they hold up individually and then together.

So to kick this off I’ll start with the Naga Hoody in Wolf Grey. Initially I was on the hunt for something that could easily be passed as being a pretty formal garment relative to my job which takes appearance rather seriously, but also see use as an underlayer in adverse weather conditions. The Naga ticks both boxes and also fulfils a few more points from there. A chest pocket is more than suitable for your phone, and it features a slot in which you can feed your headphones through so don’t expect to get tangled in the cables if you’re an avid music fan. I decided against getting the full zip style of the hoody so instead the half zip sees use. I really like this as if you get too hot the half zip still regulates your temperature surprisingly well.

The hood is very tight in comparison to the average pullover hoody, after all it is designed as an underlayer so this part is made with that in mind. It”s spot on when used with another hood as it’ll keep all areas in contact sufficiently warm, but as a stand-alone it does look odd, and if you do use it like this your family and friends will undoubtedly laugh at you. A lot. My only other criticism is the lack of a frontal pocket for your hands. In hindsight it’s not too bad now I’m used to it but initially it took a lot of getting used to.

The second part of this review is the Atom LT Hoody, a great midlayer suitable for wind and light rain. I’ve used this for the past 6 months and it is probably the best all weather jacket I’ve used. I made sure I got it prior to a trip to Prague back in mid October thinking it’d be relatively cold, but for the highest temperatures for that time of year it still worked just as fine as an extra covering from the wind.

You’ve got two large pockets for phones, wallets, hands and the slits for headphone cables, plus a smaller pocket on the inside of the jacket where I feed my earphones when I’m not using them. There’s plenty of adjustment around the waist with bungee cords, and the same on the back of the hood. There’s also a stretch material around the wrists so you’ll always have a decent seal when using it. It should be noted that there’s plenty of room for a plate carrier under the jacket so if you’re planning on getting a jacket that’s useful for certain aspects of covert work that this will fit the bill no issues.

Any Brits reading this will know that since Christmas we’ve been battered by ‘The Beast From The East’ weather bomb or whatever the media are calling it this week. As a side note if you’re from Nordic countries, Canada or northern Russia then bear with us, we aren’t used to anything other than rain! Using both the Naga and the Atom made the cold bearable really, the warmth from the underlayer and the exterior shell keeping the heat in and the weather out. Another good thing about the Naga is that there’s holes in the sleeves where you can put your thumbs through. Whilst I don’t use these on a regular basis, utilising them before putting gloves on prevents any cold air getting to your wrists which is actually pretty worthwhile in sub zero temperatures.

So to total it all up the two pieces are extremely worthwhile purchases for everyday use. Anyone who’s new to Arc May well be deterred by the Naga’s ~£120 price tag and the Atom’s ~£200 price tag, but you really get what you pay for. I recently used another jacket which is more than half the price and designed for heavy use, but in all honestly I felt bitterly cold. Arc’teryx really is the tip of the spear in my opinion. I got these two bits from Edgar Brothers Online, but there’s plenty of options if you’re further afield.

For the next review expect to see something a bit more suited for tactical situations that I’ve used exclusively for the past few events I’ve attended.

Cheers, Chris.

C2R RAMP Review

So I finally finished the rig I reviewed a few days back with the addition of an Individual First Aid Kit sent to me by the guys over at C2R, so I’ve decided to give it a bit of an overview of sorts detailing how I’ve found it to operate and what it offers.

The C2R RAMP (Rapid Access Medical Pouch) consists of two separate units, the pouch itself which contains your medical equipment and the base which attaches to your Rig via MOLLE. The pouch will then bind to the base using a panel of velcro and is then secured in place with a strip of cordura and an ITW surface buckle.

On the exterior of the pouch you’ll find a pocket suitable for nitrile gloves and gauze, personally I run the gloves in a separate pouch on my belt, but chances are some will go in that pocket anyway. Just inside the main pocket there’s two more strips of cordura that can sit between the two zips that border the pouch, which will make getting into it much quicker than operating the zips themselves.

Inside there’s a few bands of elastic which will secure larger kit in place such as your tourniquets and Emergency Trauma Dressings in place, along with some smaller strips of elastic similar to shotgun shell loops for shears, sharpies etc. I’m not exactly genned up or trained with the use of most medical appliances so forgive me for not being able to give the best insight into what to fill it with. There is however plenty of room left behind once you have the essentials in place so any extras you feel you may need shouldn’t be an issue with the room you have.

Getting to the pouch off is pretty easy. You’ll find a handle at the top that gives you great leverage, but ultimately in a real situation it won’t be you using it as it’ll be down to your teammates to sort you out. That being said I haven’t had any issues getting it off myself, from the lower back of the rig, both whilst inverted (so the handle is at the bottom) and the correct way up.

To compare it to my SOF IFAK it’s much easier to use in a hurry, the SOF has a flap more than a handle so you can’t get a good hold of it yourself, and there’s only the velcro holding it on whereas the RAMP has the added protection of the strip retaining it. The SOF however does have a couple more compartments to separate certain items, and the RAMP does not. Saying that I don’t actually use said compartments as I prefer my kit to be as streamlined as possible. Another thing is the addition of a lanyard on the detachable panel inside the IFAK which means if you need to break to engage a hostile for instance, you don’t lose it. Again this is something I prefer about the C2R IFAK as the whole pouch comes off so there’s no chance of you launching potentially life saving equipment everywhere.

Overall I’m really happy with it, I really could do with packing it out with some more items, for use at events and long term with some proper hardware (and the training to accompany it). I must send my thanks to C2R for sending this piece of kit out to me, it really means a lot! Same goes to Tom of E27 for his guidance on the medical aspects of this article.

C2Rmor Lite Review

This’s actually the second time I’ve reviewed this rig in particular, the first round was more a first impressions, this is what it has to offer kinda post. This time will be a more in depth look of what I think of the rig almost a year into owning it, plus a recap of its features and the differentiations from the more common rigs on the market.

For a bit of background, the C2Rmor Lite was first publicly seen en mass with the Metropolitan Police’s CTSFO units at Wembley during a match between England and France back in November 2015. Since then we’ve seen them in the press releases and every major terror incident in London to date. I do know that UKSF Elements have started to use the C2Rmor Lite in conjunction with JPCs and AVSs, but other than that they are a rarity amongst the international SF Community.

The rig itself has actually been updated recently to a certain extent with Hypalon, laser cut MOLLE to replace the traditional Cordura bar tacking. There’s also new shoulder pads, a new cummerbund and drag handle system, and from what I can see new placement on the velcro. CTSFO occasionally use the Lite in conjunction with the C2R Groin Protector which appears to be used in planned raids or CAT duties (Counter Ambush Team), whereas it’s much rarer with regards to response. The Groin Panel has been seen with utility pouches and shotgun loop panels on these, plus Plasticuffs but not much more, it is based around protection opposed to the common ‘Dangler’ utility.

With reference to similar rigs on the market, I’d say it’s very close to the Crye JPC, albeit a touch larger. It does share some of the features the JPC 2.0 has such as the application for a Zip on Panel on the rear, plenty of adjustment and really everything you’d expect a newer Plate Carrier to have, but I do think it pips it to the post.

As it’s currently the only generation available to civilians I’m running the first Gen courtesy of AM Tactical, so I’m sure you can appreciate I can’t comment on the latest model. I’m really happy with how it’s serving me currently especially considering I’ve decided to run real plates in mine for the Mock Counter Terror Exercises, I guess for the correct shape of the rig, plus the realism side of it. Currently I have some replica plate backers in there sent to me by Andy from S23 which are pretty essential in making the rig comfortable. The 3D Mesh doesn’t really provide sufficient padding when using standalone plates so having some form of barrier will work in your favour, and provide extra breathing room.

3D mesh covers most areas on the bits of the platebags that face your body which gives for comfort and heat removal, and is also present on the shoulder straps. The shoulder pads are fine, but you do notice when a significant weight is placed on the rig and this end up aching after prolonged use. I noted from the Flashbang Magazine article with the CTSFO feature that some of the Officers had began to run black shoulder pads, possibly from their old Warrior rigs. That’s a modification I’m going to consider at some stage for mine, although I’ll probably go with Blue Force Gear shoulder pads once I find a pair in the UK. The original straps feature the ability to accommodate hydro tubes and Comms cables should you so desire, which is just about standard on most modern plate carriers.

On the rear platebag there is room for a bladder or MOE tools, depending on the situation you’ll be using it in, this space also fits the drag handle which is unlike a design I’ve seen on Rigs before. On the surface it looks like a normal ~10cm long strip of webbing, but if given a good pull it will extend out a significant way, thus allowing other members of your team to get hold of you in the event of an emergency. This was however a requirement of the Metropolitan Police and isn’t featured on the Multicam variant and from what I can tell the latest Met specific model has scrapped the extendable piece in favour of the traditional style.

There is some admin space on the front platebag, but do note that this space is significantly reduced once the vest is used in conjunction with plates. It’s very suitable for your notepad and pen, personally I just run a cloth to defog glasses but don’t expect to be able to fit much else in there. There’s a load of velcro ‘real estate’ front and back for a variety of patches, probably the most on any rig I’ve seen before let alone used, so tons of room for ID patches and flags etc. The wearer also has the option to remove the front kangaroo pouch completely, something that I’m sure can come in handy for Plain Clothed Operations when ballistic protection is required.

The cummerbund is relatively thin, coming with a pair of pockets for side armour if you run it. I refrain from having anything on here other than an inverted Fast-Mag, radio pouch and dump pouch which sit pretty close anyway. I’ve seen on reference photos dual fast mags, external radio pouches, IFAKs etc, but I’m keeping any bulk to the rear of the rig where it won’t interfere in corridors with other Assaulters and door frames (they always get me).

As for the future, there isn’t much that I want to do to it in all honesty. I’m holding out on C2R for a Rapid Access Medical Pouch (RAMP) to accompany the Blackhawk! Dual 40mm on the rear, at some stage a Peltor PTT when I sort out a full radio setup, but the majority of pouches are set on my belt anyway so the my Lite is as slick as it can be.

Overall I’m really happy with the rig. For a high end brand it’s pretty affordable and obtainable, and is a direct competitor to the likes of the Crye JPC and Mayflower APC. It’s available in both Multicam and Wolf Grey, and you can find it at AM Tactical for around £250 currently (as of 03/18).

Cheers, Chris.

Photo Credit: London News Pictures