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

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TheCohortBlog

Been playing Airsoft for 6 and a half years currently, definitely a fan of realism, impressions and so on. Started Cohort as a means to make my own content at my own pace, so we can only wait and see where it takes us!

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