National Guard recruits stay local with airsoft training | News
Young recruits with the Washington Army National Guard received realistic training last weekend for their upcoming basic courses. Some of the recruits are still waiting to move on to the next stage of their career as a soldier and are not authorized to use real firearms. Instead - they walk, run and crawl with airsoft guns.
Airsoft isn’t as messy or archaic as paintball as described by Sfc. Mike Whitacre. He’s the lead on their July training at Spokane Airsoft located in Northtown Mall. They only get a single weekend in a month to work with the recruits, so they try to mix up the training locations to bring some recruits closer to home.
“We can stay local. We only have two days for these guys to get trained,” Sfc. Whitacre said. “...one weekend a month so if we’re spending a lot of time on the road to let’s say Yakima, we’re taking away a lot of time we can use to train these soldiers. We can find something local to maximize our training efforts.”
The guard has used other locations in Spokane for their trainings including the Spokane Police Academy, Fairchild Air Force Base and Riverside State Park. Their most recent outing at the airsoft store was a first for the group and it was designed to help them practice the techniques they learned over a presentation and put the skills to use.
The realistic experience means crawling on the carpeted floor of the store with opposing forces waiting for them. Some of them hide behind stacks of tires or just around the corner of a plywood wall. Volunteers and store employees participated in the training as the opposing force to give the recruits a realistic scenario to work with.
Training outside a military facility is not an economical tactic says Sfc. Whitacre. He describes the guard more as of a community organization compared to the other branches of military. They like to source things out to the community. The co-owners of Spokane Airsoft (one being a KXLY Broadcast Group employee) have been contributing to their trainings for about five years. They also invite the recruits to a 46-acre property near Reardan for an outdoor experience.
The sustainment program helps the recruits during their transition from civilian to soldier. After basic, it’s time for the individual job training to help them go into a variety of careers from medical and administrative.
As a standing militia, the guard is designed to keep their soldiers local in case the state finds a need for their assistance like natural disasters.
Basically, Sfc. Whitacre said, they’re the home team.
“There was flooding in the Centralia area over the winter. Obviously forest fires are pretty much every summer. Sometimes we had some calls out to other states to help,” Sfc. Whitacre said. “Hurricane Katrina is another good example. It was so devastating, the guard there was unable to handle the whole thing. It was too ginormous of a disaster so they called on many states to help out with that.”
The recruits are not at that stage yet, but eventually they will be. Most of the recruits range from ages 17 to 21 and some of them are still waiting for their uniforms to come in. In the meantime, they train.
“Using airsoft allows them to have realistic training. They’ll be ahead of the game,” Sfc. Whitacre continued.