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.
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.
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.