A new virtual trainer is giving police officers at NAS Patuxent River hands-on experience tackling some of the most dangerous scenarios they could face in a not-so-dangerous place.
After eight months in the works, the VirTraa 300 degree, wrap around simulator with surround soundwas installed last month, providing security personnel use-of-force and firearms training in a secure environment.
With the new system, police can train for difficult real-world situations, such as active shooter, suicides and hostage situations.
"This is a top-of-the-line system that will expose our law enforcement officers to many different variables they could face on any given day," said Capt. Ben Shevchuk, NAS Patuxent River executive officer. "Our security forces will encounter realistic scenarios in this device without getting in harm's way and that's a good thing."
There are about 50 different types of incidents, all of which are based on real police reports, and each contains hundreds of different responses from the characters on screen.
"Different scenarios bring out different emotions and responses in the officers," said Police Sgt. James Williams, Naval District Washington police officer assigned to NAS Patuxent River. "The controller can change the scenarios based on how the officer responds and reacts. The commands they give and their body language can trigger the scene to go one way or another as the controller makes the bad guy either comply or attack."
The officers can use four different weapons during the training: M9 pistol, OC Spray, M500 shotgun or M-16 rifle, and use of the wrong one at the wrong time ends the scenario. At that point, the controller discusses any errors and lessons learned from the event.
"This puts them in real-life scenarios," Chief Master-at-Arms Blake Poole, NAS Patuxent River Security Department Operations Leading Chief Petty Officer, said about the trainer. "It increases the officer's awareness, verbal skills and weapons skills into an environment that's very realistic. Whether it's a dog barking or someone walking down the street behind them and yelling, they have to actually turn and look to see what's coming and determine if it's a threat."
Twelve-year police veteran, Sgt. Shawn Demory, NAS Pax River Security Department Training Sergeant, said it's the most realistic training device he's seen so far in his career.
"It's above and beyond any gaming system out there," he said. "Except for the actual scenarios this is as realistic as you can get."
In the future, the security department plans to upload its own scenarios with scenes from Pax River into the system.
Additionally, the system can be used for security personnel quarterly qualifications.
NAS Pax River is the second installation in Naval District Washington to have the VirTra; the first was Dahlgren with a 180 degree system.