During the coverage of the Marathon Bombings, the National and International media flooded the airways and print with video’s and pictures of tactical vehicles doing what they are designed to do – drive INTO the kill zone. This is a scenario the security community may find unusual. But there are SWAT Teams all over the world whose job requires them on a regular basis to drive into the kill zone. This scenario is a classic example of a group whose mission does not fit into a standard training program, the officers who drive into the kill zone need a specific set of driving skills that are dictated by their mission.
Full discloser and up front this may appear to some to be a marketing piece for VDI, and the Lenco BearCat and I know this may sound a bit arrogant but VDI, and Lenco do not need to market these types of training programs or vehicles. In actuality about half of all the programs VDI conducts do not get mentioned in any form of media.
Most of the specialized programs we conducted are called “Mission Oriented Driving Skill (MODS)”. These programs require an in depth understanding of vehicle dynamics and exercises design. Looking at the types of scenarios the students will encounter we – analyze and test the vehicles to be used in the mission – from that data – develop driving exercises that replicate mission conditions.
The following is the most important aspect of MODS, and is what the client demands from VDI – We objectively measure the student’s capability to meet the mission objectives. The students that go through these programs WILL use the skills taught in the vehicle driven. It is imperative the client and the student drive through accurately created scenarios and that the driver and teams are OBJECTIVELY measured – no hype – no bullshit – can they do it and can they meet mission objectives?
The MODS training process differs from other VDI programs only in that they are mission specific, and the vehicle driven varies considerably from the “average” vehicle.
This is all accomplished by staying within the System – THE DRIVER, THE VEHICLE, and THE ENVIRONMENT – the goal is to train the Driver, to use the maximum capability of the mission Vehicle in the mission Environment.
The Mission and the Vehicle
The group’s mission (driving into the kill zone), places heavy emphasis on the Vehicle portion of the system, therefore a big part of the MODS program is determining vehicle capability, it is essential, the only way you can determine driver capability is by knowing vehicle capability. Prior to MODS training we measure the characteristics and performance of the mission vehicle. In many of these programs the vehicle is a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck, shortened to BearCat. When we tested the BearCat we were impressed with its level of performance, specifically in the area of braking, and when you add the BearCats ballistic capabilities it is the glue that holds the Driver – Vehicle – Environment system together. When the mission requires driving into the kill zone the system won’t work without it.
We took a trip to the Lenco factory (manufacturers of the BearCat) in Pittsfield MA. (To be upfront the owner of BearCat and I have been friends for decades, the key phrase is “decades”). Lenco has a test track at the factory and we wanted to take a look at the off road capability of the BearCat. Also the engineer in me wanted to see how the vehicles were manufactured. One walk around the factory and it is easy to see why the vehicle is a perfect fit for high risk scenarios. All the Lenco vehicles, not just the BearCat, are literally hand made by craftsmen, with attention to detail, and thought given to the end use of the vehicle.
When I was a consultant, working for Mercedes Benz on their armored vehicles, I had the opportunity to visit the facility where the armored Mercedes were put together. The BearCat manufacturing process is similar to the process used by Mercedes – the vehicles are built from the frame up, go from station to station and assemble by hand, with attention to detail.
When, not if, there is another terrorist attack in the US, the local police will be the first responders, that is a given. Some, not all, will be driving into the kill zone in a BearCat, with MODS training.