Training pairs veteran cops with younger security forces
June 25, 2008
Having downed five drinks in less than four hours, Tech. Sgt. Joel Colinco was hammered when he encountered the cops.
Stumbling and barely able to walk a straight line, Colinco — a reservist with the 146th Airlift Wing from the Channel Islands Air National Guard — failed all the field sobriety tests and was escorted home to sleep it off.
He was one of several "volunteer drunks" who participated in an 11-day training exercise that paired seasoned cops from the Maryland National Guard with young airmen from the 48th Security Forces Squadron.
Along with tips on how to better spot and detain drunken drivers — played by Colinco and others who intentionally got intoxicated to make the scenarios more real — the Guard unit doled out lessons in traffic stops, interrogation techniques and domestic-response procedures during its two-week deployment to Lakenheath.
Operating mainly within the base, security forces airmen get fewer opportunities to deal with the criminal element encountered daily by their full-time local law enforcement officers and state troopers in the Guard.
"Don’t be complacent, that’s my No. 1 message," said 1st Lt. Matthew Tower, commander of the Baltimore-based 175th Security Forces Squadron.
"If something goes bad here, it will probably go really bad," Tower said. "You can’t fall into a routine. There are two wars and our enemies want to do bad stuff to us. ... You have to learn to develop your powers of observation."
Still, the traffic stop and drunken driving procedures likely will be used the most in the local security forces’ day-to-day work, said Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Arens, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 48th Security Forces Squadron.
"What the Air National Guard brings to us is the newest training, techniques and procedures," Arens said. "They bring a national standard of training to security forces that we can’t always receive overseas."
Though the Guard unit — which had about 90 troops deploy to RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall for its annual rotation — did not specifically come for the police training, Lakenheath officials set it up once they realized a majority of the members were local law enforcement officers and state troopers in Maryland.
While the squadron’s experienced cops, such as Tech. Sgt. Thomas Trout, help their green counterparts on the job, the formalized training is a boon for the unit.
"It brings perspective they’re not going to get otherwise," said Trout, who has worked as a civilian and military law enforcement officer for 14 years.
For Airman 1st Class Michael Alger, the training has been "invaluable."
The 23-year-old airman arrived at Lakenheath — his first duty station — a little over a year ago and has worked only the daytime shift, the least hectic in terms of crime.
"It’s hands-on and it’s real," Alger said. "It’s the best way to help you remember when you really get in those situations."