Pink Badge of Courage

Look at the cool paintball welt I got today while receiving a short introduction to tactical training from real life ATF Special Agents!   My classmates and I broke into groups of 9-10 people each and learned how to clear a hallway in which we knew there were one or more bad guys (ATF special agents) with or without guns.  Shoot them or don’t shoot them?

Most of it was learning to communicate with each other verbally, through touch and signals as we crept down the hall and entered each room with guns drawn.  A couple of times I was the point person.  It was like one of the agents told us a couple of weeks ago: my adrenaline was pumping and my breathing was accelerated so much that I was fogging up the faceplate of my helmet.   I’ve never done anything like this before.  I didn’t feel panicked, just had a heightened awareness and complete focus.

I’ve been attending this amazing thing called the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives) Citizen’s Academy.  It’s a program intended to introduce the public to what it is the ATF does.   A couple of  months ago I called the public relations office to do some research on a TV show that had an episode involving the ATF.  I had a nice conversation with Special Agent Hoffman and he invited me to apply.   Lucky me!

This was week four.  We meet once a week for seven weeks. The first two meetings were absolutely fascinating classroom sessions during which we learned about ATF history and heard special agents talk about cases they’d been involved in.

The third meeting took us to a local shopping center where we practiced surveillance techniques.  Four groups worked in teams of two to identify a subject who met with our CI (confidential informant) and the subject’s body guard (all ATF agents.)  A citizen team leader under the tutelage of another agent directed us to follow the subject as she walked around the shopping area, went out to her vehicle to pick up a package, and made a drop.   We were rigged with radios with microphones and ear buds so we could tell each other what the subject was doing, etc.  Really fun.  It’s amazing how people at malls don’t pay attention to what people are doing!

Next week we’re going to an outdoor gun range for firearms training with automatic weapons.    They tell me that it’ll be the pinnacle of the Academy sessions, but it’s hard to believe it’ll be any more exciting than today.

One of the very cool things about the Academy is the other students.   Seriously interesting people from many walks of life: government, entertainment, literary, firearms sellers and on and on.  Each week we’ve been seated in different places and teamed up in different ways, so we’re getting to interact with different people.   Then there are the ATF Special Agents who are taking the time to do this for us…a fascinating group of men and women.

It’s about five hours later and I think I’m finally getting back to normal.  Or maybe that’s going to take a little longer to achieve, and that’s okay.  It’s very confidence inspiring to go into a completely new situation and deport yourself respectably.

Yeah, I was shot.  You might say I was collateral damage: as another team moved into a room and I was leading my team past the door, the bad guy’s paint bullet overshot his target and got me.

Totally, totally worth it.


8 thoughts on “Pink Badge of Courage

  1. markrhunter says:

    What a great experience for a writer!

  2. KathyR says:

    You are beyond awesome.

  3. Sundry says:

    Mark – I know! I am writing a lot down in my notebook…impressions, interactions, etc. I’ve heard that the FBI and the DEA also run Citizen’s Academies. Hmmmmm!

    KathyR – I am having so much fun. This morning as I came into my office I was thinking how a team would clear it. Hee!

  4. me says:

    Beyond awesome is right!! And it seems you’re already considering DEA and FBI citizen’s training! So cool!

  5. Peg says:

    What a totally cool experience! And you of course will get the most out of it.. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Sundry says:

    Me – Yes, I am thinking about those citizen’s academies. Great research. Been trying to get some action into my writing. Maybe this will help.

    Peg – Thanks! I wish you could do it too. It’s amazing!

  7. Hydra says:

    I hope I’m next.

  8. Sundry says:

    Hydra – To be shot with a paintball gun? That could be arranged.

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